Historians and Other Careers

Alexandra M. Lord, February 2003

Year after year, Perspectives seems to be publishing the same articles on the current academic job market and the poor prospects which confront most new PhDs. Judging by the trends of the last few years, it seems highly unlikely that the academic job market will improve this year or anytime in the future. It is with some irritation,then, that I ask that you adopt a more aggressive and more varied approach to this problem.

Rather than discussing minute differences in the number of jobs each year, Perspectives needs to initiate and publish studies and information on historians who work outside of the university. Although rarely discussed within academia, there are incredible opportunities for historians in policy positions, business organizations, and a variety of other fields-but this information as well as the pleasure nonacademic historians have found in their jobs is never openly or seriously discussed in Perspectives. As it is the journal most read by historians seeking a job, this indicates a serious lapse in judgment by the editors.

If we are to make history matter (and surely this is a goal shared by most historians, regardless of their profession), we need to place historians in business, government, and other professions. The more historians who work outside the academy the more visible history can become-surely this would be a good move for the profession and one that should be openly endorsed by the leading historical organization?

Moreover, if we educate historians about job opportunities outside of the academy, we can reshape the job market. Scientists can and do command higher salaries and lighter teaching loads because university administrators recognize that scientists have job opportunities outside of the university. If historians can introduce a similar form of competitiveness into the history job market, opportunities, salaries and teaching loads may shift.

Your reluctance to discuss this subject seriously indicates a very real failure on the part of the AHA.

—Alexandra M. Lord, United States Public Health Service