What to Do with a Graduate Degree in History?

Alumni in graduate school, or current and former students contemplating applying to master’s and doctoral programs in History…

Consider this brief piece by Greg Jones, graduate student representative with the Conference on Faith and History (the leading professional society for Christian historians). Noting the growing call from leading historians (he’s responding to an op-ed piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by American cultural historian Thomas Bender — requires subscription) for graduate schools to rethink how they train their students, and whether “tenure-track professor” ought to remain the primary career path, Jones muses:

…few of us aspire to land at “publish or perish” universities, instead preferring the teaching-friendly and teaching-heavy confines of the liberal arts institutions that spawned our ill-fated desires to pursue this profession.

It leads me to a few questions; first, why does the academy as a whole seem to look down their noses at the teaching-dominant workplaces?  Is there something inherently non-academic about teaching a 4/4 load?  Secondly, what does this mean for those of us who believe in Calling?  Are these articles and statistics a “sign” that we should begin considering other options (the proverbial “door closing”), or are they instead obstacles to test our perseverance in the midst of lifelong refining fire?

Jones’ question about Calling should have special resonance for aspiring Christian historians, if Dorothy Sayers was right that the work to which God calls us is not what we do to live but what we live to do.

– Chris Gehrz

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