In a recent article on migratory, temporary employment, Leonard Cassuto, who writes a monthly column on graduate-school issues for The Chronicle, wrote: “The problem is not limited to historians, of course. They just have the best data.” In their 2013 report to the association, called “The Many Careers of History Ph.D.’s,” L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend provided a benchmark survey of the career paths of historians who received their doctorates from 1998 to 2009. Based on a sample of 2,500 out of a universe of almost 11,000, Wood and Townsend found that 51 percent of the respondents had secured tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions with an additional 2 percent on the tenure track at community colleges. To make a finer point, only a sixth of recent Ph.D.’s secured employment at major public and private research universities.
Does the academic job crisis for historians vary according to subfield?
According to Wood and Townsend, only 44 percent of both North American and world historians find tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions, compared with 52 percent of Europeanists and “65 percent or more of specialists in the histories of Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East and Islamic World.” And time-from-degree does matter when on the job market, with five years as a mark of diminishing marketability.