The Transition from Graduate Student to Professional: Introduction

Aaron Marrs, December 2008

As daunting as the job market may seem to current graduate students, landing a job may seem like a good ending. In reality, however, an entirely new set of challenges await young professionals in their first jobs. In recognition of the difficulties, surprises, and joys of making the transition from graduate student to professional, the AHA’s Committee for Graduate Students (which is now known as the Graduate and Early Career Committee) convened a roundtable discussion on this topic at the 2008 annual meeting in Washington, D.C. I am pleased that all four presenters, representing a range of educational backgrounds and employers, have agreed to share their comments with Perspectives.

Three of our panelists—Natalie Kimbrough (Community College of Baltimore County), Lynn Sargeant (California State University at Fullerton), and Cheryl Wells (University of Wyoming)—shared their experience in academic settings. Our fourth panelist, Melissa Jane Taylor, is a historian at the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. The historians offer their thoughts on the transition process, and illustrate how professionalization needs to be a concern for graduate students long before they start submitting job applications. Whether in small or large schools, or outside of the academy altogether, each of the authors has had to acculturate to a new environment and expectations as a full professional. These essays should allow current graduate students to gain some insights and further reflect on this process. More resources on professional topics are available at the “Resources for History Graduate Students” portion of the AHA’s web site.

The CGS is grateful to these four historians for sharing their time and advice both at the Washington meeting and in print.

—Aaron W. Marrs, a member of the Perspectives on History editorial advisory board, is a historian in the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed by the author in this essay are solely those of the author and are not necessarily the official view of the Office of the Historian, the U.S. Department of State, or the U.S. Government.