AHA: Non-academic careers shouldn’t be a “plan B”

Inside Higher Ed reports that the American Historical Association has just released a position paper, co-authored by AHA president Anthony Grafton and AGA executive director James Grossman, arguing that non-academic careers for history Ph.D.s shouldn't be thought of as some kind of aberration or "plan B," but recognized as the new normal.

For years now, humanities and other disciplines have promoted "alternative" careers for new Ph.D.s, trying both to increase the range of opportunities available to new graduates and to ease the competition just a bit in the academic job market.

The president and executive director of the American Historical Association have just released a statement calling for their field to abandon the idea that any career path — including those paths outside of academe — be classified as "alternative." It is time, they argue, to admit that the academic job market is not coming back anytime soon, that many new Ph.D.s who find jobs outside academe find rewarding work (both financially and intellectually), and that the doctoral experience needs to change in some ways so that new Ph.D.s have more options.

It's only taken 20+ years to recognize that graduate training promotes an outmoded, unrealistic (and, I would argue, unnecessarily narrow) set of career expectations. But maybe attitudes will actually start to change. Or perhaps graduate programs will just reduce their enrollments by 50%, to reflect the permanently reduced size of the academic job market, and to keep from having to change their way or working.

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