The Troubled Academic Job Market for History

Robert B. Townsend and Julia Brookins

The academic job market in history remains quite challenging for recent PhDs, and evidence from the AHA’s Directory of History Departments, Historical Organizations, and Historians (the Directory) indicates that these challenges are likely to persist. Among the signs of difficulty for academic-job candidates today and into the near future: (1) the number of positions advertised with the AHA over the past year fell for the third year in a row, (2) the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty lines fell slightly over the past five years, and (3) evidence indicates that a relatively small share of full-time faculty will be approaching retirement within the next decade.1

The data reported here represent academic positions that have been advertised with the AHA; this is a subset within the broad range of jobs that historians pursue and perform. An in-depth study conducted by the AHA in 2013 found that 24 percent of those who had earned a history doctorate 3 to 15 years earlier held positions beyond the professoriate.2 The AHA’s ongoing Career Diversity for Historians project highlights the extensive scope of such opportunities and provides professional development resources for both history doctoral students and graduate programs.3 Finally, many positions in postsecondary history teaching—at two-year colleges, for example—are advertised primarily through institutional and local job boards, and are not part of the data set in this analysis