Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities

By Ronald G. Ehrenberg; Harriet Zuckerman et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Early Careers

What helped me finish? It was made clear to me
from the moment I arrived that delays getting the
degree would not help me on the job market.

—A 1995 history PhD who began in 1990

Seeing the job-search experience of students just a
few years ahead of me in graduate school, my an-
ecdotal impression is that hiring committees be-
gan paying much more attention to whether or not
candidates were finished at some point during the
time that I was in graduate school. Those finding
jobs in the late '80s and early '90s had a very dif-
ferent experience and completion was less impor-
tant than other factors. By the mid '90s completion
seemed to me to be the first of the criteria, but
pressure and advice from graduate faculty did not
recognize this shift.

—A 1995 PhD in English who began in 1988

MANY NEW PhDs in the humanities aspire to tenure-track teaching positions at four-year colleges and universities.1 How successful were the PhDs in our sample in obtaining such positions, and what were the factors that influenced their success? Do new PhDs who initially find employment in non-tenure-track positions get locked into these positions or do they move into tenure-track positions? How does job-market success vary with new PhDs' gender, marital status, and family status? Do a substantial fraction of new PhDs in these fields wind up as tenured faculty members within 15 years after they enter their PhD programs? Finally,

1 Maresi Nerad, “Confronting Common Assumptions: Designing Future-Oriented Doc-
toral Programs,” in Ronald G. Ehrenberg and Charlotte Kuh, eds., Doctoral Education and
the Faculty of the Future (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008), pp. 80–89, presents data
showing that a number of entering PhD students in several humanities fields are not plan-
ning on academic careers when they enter PhD programs. However, the vast majority of en-
tering PhD students in the humanities do aspire to careers in academia.

-186-

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