Humanities PhD students in US turning to "alt-ac" careers

May 2, 2013

Many humanities PhDs have put their training to work in careers that aren’t on the faculty track, and a new survey out of the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia has recently explored how these graduates came to pursue alternative academic, or "alt-ac," careers. Of the 779 graduates surveyed, 74% said at the beginning of their programs that they intended to become tenured professors, and of those, 80% of them said they were fairly or completely certain. However, none of those surveyed ended up becoming tenured professors. Moreover, a 2011 report by the National Science Foundation found that 43% of humanities PhD recipients did not have any job commitments after completing their academic programs. Ideally, the report reads, humanities departments should temper their students' expectations about finding a career in academe before even admitting them, and continue to highlight alt-ac opportunities through career counselling. In addition, the report suggests, in order to eliminate the stigma that an alt-ac career amounts to "selling out," departments need to expand how they track job placements and invite successful graduates back as mentors. Inside Higher Ed