Where Historians Work tracks the employment status of history and history of science PhDs who graduated from all history PhD-granting departments in the United States from 2004 to 2017.1 This data shows a snapshot of PhD employment, accurate when it was gathered: as of 2017 for those graduating between 2004 and 2013, and as of 2021 for those graduating between 2014 and 2017. We selected this time frame for two reasons. First, we wanted to understand career trajectories rather than initial employment. Selecting 2017 as the final year for our study means our data is both recent enough to be aligned with contemporary employment conditions and old enough to capture many mid-career historians who have settled into careers. Second, when we released our first dataset in 2018, containing data from 2004 to 2013, the data split neatly across the 2008–09 recession, giving us the opportunity to see how employment patterns varied before and after the Great Recession. The second data set, gathered in 2020 and 2021, might also contribute to a baseline understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected employment of historians.

To create Where Historians Work, AHA researchers began with a list of names and dissertation titles pulled from the AHA’s Directory of History Dissertations. History departments report completed dissertations to the AHA. Though it depends on voluntary reporting, the Directory is remarkably complete: a 2017 comparison with federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data suggests that it includes over 95 percent of the dissertations completed in the discipline during our target years. The Directory provided us with names, graduation years, and departments, as well as information about specialization as reflected in the dissertation title.

Using the Directory as a basis, we identified the current employment of history PhDs using publicly available online sources, including university, organization, and company websites; LinkedIn; personal blogs and websites; newspaper announcements; bios on publishers’ websites and conference programs; and various social media outlets. Information provided by departments and department websites often proved a useful starting point, but to avoid the risk of recording outdated information, we corroborated all such information with a secondary reference. AHA researchers recorded employer name, job title, and employment location (city, state, and country) and a variety of other information about each located individual. At no time were the individuals themselves contacted to supply information. The employment data used in the 2004 to 2013 database was current as of 2017. The employment data used in the 2014 to 2017 database was current as of 2021.

While researching the 2004 to 2013 dataset, we identified the employment of 8,011 history PhDs, 93 percent of our total population.2 For the 2014 to 2017 dataset, we identified the employment of 3,436 history PhDs, 91 percent of our total population. An individual was designated “Not Found” if, after a reasonable duration of search time, no online record of current employment could be located. It is not safe to assume that historians in the “Not Found” category are unemployed. Several types of employment seem associated with a weaker online presence, including certain types of government or military occupations, self-employment and freelance work, and faculty work at institutions outside the United States. Anecdotal impressions gathered during the research process also suggest that many “Not Found” historians are retired. We classified historians as “unemployed” or “retired” only if this information was self-reported (such as on LinkedIn or a personal website) or conveyed through a media announcement.

Fifty-four deceased individuals (47 from the 2004 to 2013 data set and 7 from the 2014 to 2017 data set) are excluded from this study.

In addition to collecting information about current employment, AHA researchers also tagged the data in several ways as described below:

Gender: For the 2004 to 2013 dataset, we inferred gender from names, photographic evidence, stated pronoun preference, and other references found while searching for employment. There is room for error at the individual level, but our overall gender distribution (42.9 percent female) closely matches IPEDS data for the discipline during the same period (42.6 percent female). For gender designations in the 2014 to 2017 dataset, we used the data about gender reported by individual departments when they submitted dissertation information to our dissertation directory, an option not possible in the earlier data set.

Specialization and Specialization Era: These data were determined on the basis of the dissertation title listed in the AHA’s Directory of History Dissertations. Dissertations were placed in the modern category if the temporal frame listed in the dissertation title (e.g., 1789–1820) crossed into the 19th century.

Carnegie Classification: All individuals employed at postsecondary institutions in the US with Carnegie Classifications were so classified. The charts presented in Where Historians Work group Carnegie Classifications into a slightly simplified schema to allow employment patterns to be more readily discerned. Special-focus schools include military schools, tribal colleges, and institutions awarding over 75 percent of their degrees in a single program (e.g., art schools). Please note: the Carnegie classification system is updated periodically and, as a result, the Carnegie classifications noted in the 2014 to 2017 dataset sometimes diverge from the classifications noted in the 2004 to 2013 dataset.

Employment Category: AHA researchers assigned employment categories from among the following options: business, federal government, higher education, incorporated self-employed, nonprofit, retired, state and local government, unemployed, unincorporated self-employed. When individuals held more than one job in different employment categories (for example, a lawyer who worked as an adjunct professor), we used our best judgment as to primary occupation. As this category describes the characteristics of an individual’s employer, K–12 teachers at public schools are classified under state and local government, while K–12 teachers at independent schools are classified under nonprofit.

Tenure Status: Higher education faculty tenure status was designated by four categories: two-year college tenure-track, two-year college non-tenure-track, four-year college tenure-track, and four-year college non-tenure-track. We inferred tenure status from the individual’s job title. Researchers used their best judgment about how to classify professors at non-US universities, which often use different academic nomenclatures, or at US institutions with nonstandard nomenclatures. We categorized tenured faculty who occupy administrative positions, such as deans, as tenure-track. However, for the purpose of Where Historians Work, librarians—some of whom hold tenure—are not considered tenure-track faculty but instead categorized as academic administrators. The non-tenure-track designation includes all non-tenure-track faculty, including visiting professors, adjuncts, and lecturers with multiyear contracts.

SOC Code and SOC Title: We assigned each individual a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Code and SOC Title, occupational codes developed by the US Department of Labor. SOC codes and titles are based on individuals’ job titles and the nature of the work they seemed to perform. One code that may require some clarification is SOC Code 19-3093, titled “Historians,” which the system defines as workers who “research, analyze, record, and interpret the past as recorded in sources.” Nonteachers who have variations of “historian” “researcher,” or “historical consultant” in their job title, as well as research-oriented postdocs and those who identify as independent scholars, are included in this category. Please note: the Department of Labor updates SOC codes and titles periodically and, as a result, SOC codes and titles noted in the 2014 to 2017 dataset may sometimes diverge from the SOC codes and titles noted in the 2004 to 2013 dataset.

Geographical Data: All geographical data refers to the address of the individual’s employer.

1 The 2004 to 2013 dashboard includes data from 159 PhD granting departments. The 2014 to 2017 dashboard includes data from 156 PhD granting departments.

2 This rate compares favorably to similar PhD tracking projects, including the University of Toronto’s 10,000 PhDs Project and the Stanford PhD Alumni Employment Project.