PhD candidates in the humanities have never exactly been living in the lap of luxury. However, new research suggests that times are harder than ever for new doctoral candidates in the humanities. According to research by The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, job prospects for humanities PhDs diminished significantly with the recession and have continued to decline since then.

Data Forum, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, March 2015

The chart above shows the number of job openings in a given academic field based on employment ads posted with scholarly societies. It clearly shows a pattern of declining jobs that began with the recession and has continued through the present day. Job ads peak in the 2007-2008 academic year, then fell by about a third for almost all disciplines.

The authors of the study urge some caution on the results: These job ads aren’t a systematic annual collection of every job opening, and one job can be listed multiple times during a year. However, the results do point to lower demand for new doctorate recipients.

So far, it seems that winnowing demand has yet to affect the supply of new PhDs. A study by Jeffrey Groen of the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the number of job listings had no correlation with the probability that a student completes his or her PhD, or with the expected time to degree.

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