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The Humanities, Arts, and Education

Ongoing Weakness in the Academic Job Market for Humanities

Across the humanities, the number of job ads posted with disciplinary societies remains well below pre-recession levels.1 In reports published last year, all but one of the societies noted that job advertisements fell, with one exception—philosophy—rebounding from the lowest level on record.

For all of the humanities disciplines, advertisements for positions are at least 31% below the levels reported in the 2007–2008 academic year (see Figure 1). In new data reported by the Humanities Indicators today, the recent drop in job advertisements is accompanied by a flattening out of the steady growth in the number of humanities faculty members through the 2000s.

Figure 1: Number of Advertised Job Openings through Disciplinary Society, 2000–01 to 2014–15

Sources: Information drawn from published data from the national scholarly society for each field. (See endnote below for complete list of sources.) Counts represent the total de-duplicated number of positions advertised in the previous year. Philosophy counts are for the previous calendar year, while counts for all other disciplines are for the previous academic year.

While the number of job openings remains depressed, the annual number of new PhDs in each of these disciplines was higher in 2014 than in 2007–though the numbers are now starting to fall. While the divergence between the two trends may seem contradictory, it is important to keep in mind the lengthy time to degree for humanities PhDs. Given that it takes almost seven years for humanities PhDs to complete their studies, it takes time for institutional efforts initiated after the precipitous drop in jobs to affect the number of degree conferrals. As a support to efforts at the program level, the larger humanities societies (most notably the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association) are actively exploring career options for PhDs in their disciplines.

To provide some context for current trends in the fields, Leonard Cassuto (Fordham University) surveys recurring crises in the academic job market for the humanities, and the challenges facing doctoral students and those who train them.

June 5, 2016

This Picture Tells a Story

posted by
Leonard CassutoLeonard Cassuto is a professor of English and American Studies at Fordham University and a graduate education columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the author of The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard University Press, 2015).

When Oscar Wilde celebrated color that was “unspoiled by meaning,” he wasn’t looking at the graph of advertised job openings in the humanities over the past 15 years. That graph contains meaning that we can’t afford to turn away from. It shows the colors of difficult truths.

Humanists are taught to tease out ambiguity and respect it where it appears. Rather than force an interpretation on an image or text, we try to generate multiple possibilities. We’ve been especially true to that training in our efforts to understand the academic job market over the years. Rather than settle for more obvious narratives of decline, we’ve sought equivocal alternatives to them. We’ve been doing that for generations.

Humanists are taught to tease out ambiguity and respect it where it appears. Rather than force an interpretation on an image or text, we try to generate multiple possibilities. We’ve been especially true to that training in our efforts to understand the academic job market over the years. Rather than settle for more obvious narratives of decline, we’ve sought equivocal alternatives to them. We’ve been doing that for generations.   More... 

Endnotes

1 Data for this report were taken from the following sources: Classical Studies: Classical Studies Association, “SCS Placement Service, Participation Statistics, 2003–2015;” History: Julia Brookins and Robert B. Townsend, “The Troubled Academic Job Market for History,” Perspectives on History (February 2016); Languages: MLA Office of Research, “Report on the MLA Job Information List, 2014–15 (December 2015);” Philosophy: American Philosophical Association, “Number of Jobs Published by Year;” Religion: American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature, “Job Advertisement Data 2014–2015.”

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Guest
2/7/2017
 

After overproducing PhDs for many years, history departments across Canada are now trying to convince their students that there are plenty of jobs for Ph.D. holders outside academia. This is a shameless lie. 


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