Statistics show more jobs available and fewer new Ph.D.'s, but trend may be short-lived





Historians are only cautiously optimistic about healthier job prospects. Over the past few years, the number of graduate students entering doctoral programs in history has been rising again, while the proportion of faculty members approaching retirement age has been falling. Those trends could collide to create more competition for fewer job openings in the future.

A report on the history job market for 2004-5 shows that faculty jobs advertised in the history association's magazine, Perspectives, were up 13 percent last year over the year before — for a total of 966 jobs at all levels. Jobs advertised specifically for new assistant professors of history were up by even more — about 18 percent — for a total of 801 jobs. That is the largest number of junior-faculty jobs advertised through the association in 13 years.

Robert B. Townsend, assistant director of research and publications for the association, says early indications are that job openings will increase again this year. The number of positions that colleges and universities interviewed candidates for at the meeting this month was up by about 15 percent over last year, he says.

At the same time, the number of people earning Ph.D.'s in history is falling. According to the historical association, that number dropped by about 14 percent in the 2004-5 academic year from the year before. From a job candidate's viewpoint, that amounts to a reduction in competition for jobs, which makes his or her chances that much better.


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