Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Careers in history

I've always regretted how so many history students seem to accept that unless they acquire a tenure-stream position in a history department, they must put aside historical interests and attitudes. Outside of university promotional materials on "Careers in the Humanities," few of us genuinely seem able to imagine a historical education as a sound basis for being a film-maker, say, or a community developer, or (to get personal about it) a freelance writer. I have met many film-makers working on historical subjects, but never one who took an interest in history into film rather than the other way around.

Here, however, is an American prof thinking grim thoughts about career and life prospects for graduate students in the humanities, and even suggesting freelance writing is a reasonable alternative.
They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect — a more responsible and secure choice than, say, attempting to make it as a freelance writer, or an actor, or a professional athlete — and, as a result, they don't make any fallback plans until it is too late.
Update: Bloggendipity: when two blogs coincidentally take up the same subject. For example, see Andrew Smith's take on the job market. (Less than 60 applicants for a position is about the best it gets)

Update, January 6: Alasdair Cheng offers an important comment and corrective:
I wondered whether Benton was actually suggesting that freelance writing was a viable alternative to academia: my reading was that he thought academia should realistically be considered just as implausible as making a living as a freelancer – i.e. just like it’s irresponsible to have “professional athlete” as a career plan without some more hard-headed backup. I think that your own success at freelancing would probably be taken as the sort of exception that proves the rule, like a secure, well-endowed research chair’s position…
Yes, I think Benton meant these choices may be about equally risky, and I don't disagree.
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