With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Is the jobs picture for historians as bad as it seems?

Related Links

●  Enrollment Declines Continue: AHA Survey Again Shows Fewer Undergraduates in History Courses

HNN Hot Topic  The History Crisis

Each year, the AHA presents an article with information collated from our Career Center advertisements to represent the academic job market for historians (as we call it), or, less precisely, “the job market” (as many others term it). Featuring heart-stopping graphs and numbers, the piece usually implies that there’s a quantifiable “market” that can be summarized in a simple visualization. But we’ve become less satisfied with this type of article, because it’s clear that the clean surface of a graph fails to capture the many and diffuse professional opportunities open to historians.

The idea of a singular job market for historians stems from still-powerful conceptions of what a history job looks like. Academic jobs are advertised in a number of forums, raising questions about whether any single source of postings fully represents academic hiring trends. By relying on data from the AHA Career Center, the AHA (and our members) risks succumbing to what social scientists call a “streetlight” problem—looking for answers in the places that are already illuminated instead of in the shadows, even though searching through both is most likely to produce accurate results. In recent years, we have experimented with compiling data from H-Net, another leading source of academic job listings, to ensure the comprehensiveness of our annual jobs report.1 This year, H-Net once again generously shared its advertising data with us. Although the combined data allow for a fuller accounting of the state of the academic job market, they also raise fundamental questions about what it means to quantify it, especially since historians find employment opportunities beyond the professoriate, in altogether different job markets....

Read entire article at AHA's Perspectives