The objective of the UB Department of History’s Career Diversity team is to encourage our PhD students to look into a wide range of career opportunities both inside and outside of academia. We urge our PhD students to identify various career avenues after their graduation and to actively seek out these opportunities. With help from university and community collaborators, we organize pro-seminars, career diversity events, and collaborative projects.
The concern related to the history job market is one of the principal reasons why the UB Department of History joined the AHA’s Career Diversity for Historians project. The job advertisements for history PhDs have declined for the past five consecutive years, to the lowest level since the mid-1980s. Between June 2016 and June 2017, the AHA Career Center posted 501 full-time job advertisements, a 12% decline compared to the previous year period. Recently, the AHA collected career-related data from 8,523 historians who earned PhDs at 161 US institutions between 2004 and 2013. The results show that on average, 47% of History PhDs obtained four-year tenure track positions. During the same time period, 41% of UB History PhDs obtained four-year tenure track positions. Where did the other 59% of our PhDs go? 31% took non-tenure or 2-year tenure track positions, and 21% went to non-teaching positions in higher education or to NPO, NGO, or private sector positions. While History graduate programs have long envisioned their role to train the next generation of professors, these figures show that there is an increasing demand to respond to the shift in the history job market.
AHA Executive Director Jim Grossman and former AHA President Anthony Grafton argue that the discipline needs to reconsider its culture which puts professorship on a pedestal. Casual remarks that regard non-academic jobs as an “alternative” or “Plan B” implicitly tell PhD students that “if they do have to settle for employment outside the academy, they should crawl off home and gnaw their arms off.” Instead, why not tell the students that a PhD in History will lead to a broad range of job opportunities beyond the academy? For example, our PhDs have earned positions in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Organization of American Historians, the Old First Ward Community Center, the Strong National Museum of Play, and Veterans Affairs.
As part of this program and to help students envision “Two Plan As” UB Career Diversity Fellow, Shuko Tamao co-facilitated two pro-seminars with Kristin Stapleton during the 2018-2019 year. One seminar focused on history teaching and the other on careers for historians. She has also written a handbook for online teaching. In addition to these “visible” works, Tamao has built a network of collaborators including our alumni, graduate students, professors, and professionals. She is also envisioning a collaborative effort with other UB departments to create a certificate program in building skills necessary for a wide range of positions.