Career Diversity for Historians

In 2014, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to the AHA to demonstrate how graduate programs in history can prepare doctoral students to pursue a wide spectrum of career opportunities. The three-year project will fund a suite of national activities in concert with pilot programs at four universities.

In the first phase of Career Diversity for Historians, funded by parallel grants to the AHA and the MLA in 2012, we learned that there are four key skills graduate students need to succeed in jobs beyond the academy: communication, collaboration, quantitative literacy, and intellectual self-confidence. What we are realizing now is that these same skills and habits of mind prepare graduate students to be better faculty members, too. Thus, a second aim of the project is to forge connections among historians in the professoriate, higher education administration, cultural institutions and other nonprofits, government, public education, and the private sector. In the broadest sense, this initiative aims to improve graduate education in history while increasing the influence of the humanities on society.

Check back often as we develop tools and resources and provide updates on the activities of the AHA-Mellon pilot programs.

Get Involved with AHA Career Diversity

Regional Conferences

University of New Mexico, What Use is History?, February 26–27, 2015.  See one Storify account here.

Columbia University, History in Action II: Historical Thinking in Public Life, March 6–7, 2015. Live tweets at #AHACareerDiversity!

Coming Soon

A Career Resource Guide for history PhDs, including new editions of What I Do, and resources from Career Diversity for Historians at the Annual Meeting.

Join the conversation: #AHACareerDiversity

The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013

Career Paths

Earning a doctoral degree in history presents a range of choices, starting with questions about where and what to study, and how to pay for the effort. Too often those choices have to be made with a significant amount of guesswork as to their potential outcomes. As part of the American Historical Association's assessment of careers for history PhDs, the authors of this study undertook a detailed analysis of the current employment held by 2,500 history PhDs, all of whom earned their degrees between 1998 and 2009.

The Many Careers of History PhDs

Where Can a History PhD Take You?

World travel and communications recorded on Twitter. Credit: Eric Fischer, CC BY 2.0, on data gathered by the AHA's department tracking service, see where in the country history PhDs are employed, the variety of occupations they are engaged in and how graduation rates and career outcomes have changed over time.  Based on the ground-breaking “The Many Careers of the History PhD,” the department tracking service gathers program-level data on career outcomes and anonymizes it into aggregate data.  

Visualizations of Career Outcomes

Related Bibliography

Anthony Grafton and James Grossman, “No More Plan B: A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History,Perspectives on History (October 2011)

Anthony Grafton and James Grossman, “Plan C,” Perspectives on History (November 2011)

Edward J. Balleisen, "The Career Question in History," Perspectives on History (December 2011)

Thomas Bender, “What’s Been Lost in History,” Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (February 12, 2012)

Megan Doherty, “The Humanities PhD at Work,” CHE (February 20, 2013)

Leonard Cassuto, “What if We Made Fewer PhDs?CHE (December 12, 2012)

Peter Coclanis, “Wanted: Dedicated Deep Thinkers,” CHE (March 18, 2012)

Leonard Cassuto, “Keyword: Placement,” CHE (April 9, 2012)

Maren Wood, “What Doors Does a PhD in History Open?,” CHE (October 30, 2012)

Ms. Mentor, “Who Are You Trying to Impress?CHE (October 27, 2014)

Paula E. Findlen, “Why Go To Graduate School?CHE (November 17, 2014)