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The Humanities, Arts, and Education

A Path Forward as Academic Job Market in Humanities Falters

For the seventh consecutive year, the number of jobs advertised with disciplinary associations in the humanities lingered substantially below pre-recession levels (Figure 1).1 In the disciplines of religion and English, the number of jobs advertised fell 11% and 7% from the previous year. In the other four disciplines, changes ranged from a one percent increase (in classical studies) to three percent declines in history and languages other than English.

The positions advertised with the societies largely represent academic jobs, which presents a particularly acute challenge to humanities faculty and doctoral students. As the Humanities Indicators reported last year, a comparatively large share of humanities PhDs enter employment in postsecondary teaching. Indeed, the humanities and arts are the only fields where a majority of PhDs have taken employment as teachers in colleges and universities.

Figure 1: Number of Advertised Job Openings through Disciplinary Society,
2000–01 to 2015–16

Sources: Information drawn from data supplied by 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.

In a separate release today, the Indicators reported that U.S. universities awarded 5,891 humanities PhDs in 2015—the largest number recorded since 1987 (the first year for which data are available)—and that the annual number of new PhDs had increased almost every year from 2007 to 2015.

The divergence between the number of available academic jobs and the rising numbers of new PhDs presents a dilemma for leaders in the field and higher education. The scholarly societies, led by the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association, are now actively promoting career diversity for doctoral students. In recent months, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) joined these efforts. To provide perspective on these issues, CGS president Suzanne Ortega describes the Council’s intentions and programs in this area.

August 28, 2017

PhDs wanted: Valuing deep training in the humanities

posted By
Suzanne T. OrtegaSuzanne T. Ortega is President at the Council of Graduate Schools.

The number of academic positions posted by humanities disciplinary associations has decreased overall. This news of the continued sluggishness of the academic job market is only distressing, however, if we believe that the single possible or appropriate professional pathway for humanities PhDs is the professoriate. There is no reason to accept this view as reality when the limited available evidence suggests that a wide range of rewarding careers are possible.   More... 


1 Data for this report were taken from the following sources: Classical Studies: Provided by email from the Classical Studies Association; History: Robert B. Townsend and Emily Swafford, “Conflicting Signals in the Academic Job Market for History,” Perspectives on History (January 2017); Languages: MLA Office of Research, “Report on the MLA Job Information List, 2015–16” (January 2017);” Philosophy: Provided by email from the American Philosophical Association; Religion: American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature, “Job Advertisement Data 2015–16.”

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