History Ph.D.s casting their nets more widely

“The national conversation about the merits of graduate education has intensified, and concerns have grown about whether programs are admitting more students than the academic market can bear. Many colleges have shown reluctance to produce Ph.D.-placement information, knowing that it would underscore the stark reality that doctoral students often do not get the kind of jobs they want for the money and the time they have spent in their graduate programs…

“Universities’ track records on providing placement data for Ph.D. programs vary widely…. Some individual departments also have good information about their graduates, including the history departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Rutgers University.”

— From “Do You Know Where Your Ph.D.’s Are?” by Audrey Williams June in the Chronicle of Higher Education (September 23, 2013)

So how do those Chapel Hill history grads use their doctorates? Ever more nontraditionally, says department chair W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Professor of History:

“About 2/3 are in academia, either tenure-track or administration.  Roughly 10% are in public history positions (museums, etc.) while the remainder are pursuing all manner of careers.

“As a department we are now making a concerted effort to inform our graduate students that academia is not the only valid career path.  Just as no one would contend that any law school graduate who doesn’t practice law is a failure, so too we stress that the training one receives while earning a PhD has utility whether one enters academia or not.

“To better prepare our graduates for alternative careers we have now initiated a summer program of funded internships so that students can build networks outside of the traditional academic workplace.  And we are having alumni who have pursued non-academic careers offer wisdom and perspective as well.”

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