Track 1: Academic


Typically, when you pursue graduate studies in history, you are being prepared to follow in your advisor’s footsteps and to enter the academic job market. This is reflected in a 2000 survey that shows how, similar to other humanities fields, around three-quarters of PhD recipients intended to find work at an educational institution. Of those, about 60% end up working in universities, either in tenure-track positions or as contingent (non-tenured, temporary) instructors. The PhD track is very rewarding but also very challenging.

This section looks at the variety of longer-term career possibilities as an academic historian. Not included are short-term fellowships or post-doctorate positions.

Some starting points for all academic historians

Membership in historical associations that are relevant to your practice and research topics is a key way of creating and maintaining a dialogue with other historians. Nationally, there are the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) and the American Historical Association (AHA), both which provide information, job listings, and advocate on behalf of the historical profession. If you are wondering about associations and societies that are specific to your research interests, inquire with professors who study similar topics or do an online search. Also see the Organization of American Historians.

See “Becoming A Historian”, the online version of Franca Iacovetta and Molly Ladd Taylor’s Canadian edition of the AHA guide Becoming a Historian by Melanie Gustafson. Donald Hall’s book The Academic Self: An Owner’s Manual (Ohio State University Press, 2002) is a highly recommended guide for humanities graduate students and professors.

The AHA website has an incredible number of resources available for history graduate students and early career professionals including answers to what is involved in graduate school, what to do when you graduate, and how to prepare for the job market.

There are numerous publications that keep academic historians up to date on the latest trends in the job market, challenges faced in the profession, and issues that are being widely discussed across the field of higher education. Among them are Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, University Affairs, and Times Higher Education.

Many newspapers and magazines also include regular features about issues in higher education, such as:

You can also find news relevant to your region or country by searching local or national newspaper content for news stories on higher education.

In 2009, Louis Groarke and Wayne Fenske asked the question “PhD: to what end?” in University Affairs, which while aimed at those studying philosophy speaks broadly to those interested in the challenges of gaining tenure.