No Art History Jobs

Art historians definitely suffer when the economy goes bad. Over the past few months, I’ve looked several times for positions related to art history in my area without luck. After reading this post, though, I’m realizing that the employment problem is widespread. Not only is the poor economy creating less jobs for art historians, but there are too many people completing doctoral programs in the humanities. The supply of potential professors far exceeds the current demand.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better for me to get a secondary teaching certificate, so that I could teach AP Art History. Is it even worth considering a PhD program if you can never find a job?

  • ixoj says:

    SAD. I would suggest getting a teaching certificate because it would be much cheaper, less time consuming, and probably more useful (at least for the next little while) than a PhD would be right now.

    I’m very glad English is the lingua franca of the world…

  • LeGrand says:

    So true. For me it’s been even more fun. Not only can I not find any art history jobs, I’m having a hard time getting ANY job since I have a useless degree in art history.

    My wife got excited to show me a teaching job at a community college in Virginia. Which would probably be my dream job. She figured it would be perfect until I explained to her how many other dummies there are in the world who majored in art history, have PhDs and are desperate for any teaching position.

    I’ve always figured I will get some job that I can’t stand that just pays the bills. And then hopefully I can get hired as an adjunct, teaching a night class every now and then to keep me sane.

    Wow! Sore subject for me.

  • Zillah says:

    It depends on what you want to teach. If you really want to teach on a college level–even as an adjunct–then a phd will probably be necessary. I think that there will be fewer and fewer MAs hired as adjuncts, because there are so many phds around who need jobs. at the same time, you may still be able to find adjunct positions, as universities and colleges shift towards more and more adjuncts, since they’re less expensive to hire than full professors.

    if you just want to teach, and you don’t care if it’s high school or college, go for the teaching certificate. they don’t take very long, and you may be able to find a school district that will pay for it. also, while a number of private schools require certification, a lot of them don’t.

    the other problem, of course, is that it’s the wrong time of year to be hiring a teacher. (if you are dying to get out of the house right now, though, have you looked into substitute teaching?)

  • Emilee . . . says:

    SO SO SO true. Granted, my degrees aren’t in art history, but it seems that any degree related to the humanities doesn’t receive the respect of say, an engineering degree.

    I went back to grad school because well, because I always wanted to go to grad school, but I believed it would set me apart from the masses, make me more marketable, open doors, etc., etc. I have found that there are, technically, a few jobs that I am now “eligible” to apply for but they also all require 5 years of experience OR a PhD — neither of which I have. I also went back thinking this would open the door for me to teach at a little community college as an adjunct. HA. Like everyone has mentioned above me, there are a million PhD’s ahead of me.

    You (and the article) are also dead on about the economy. Two of the jobs I’ve applied for post-grad school have been recalled. Add that to the fact that there are essentially no open positions anywhere (even/especially in government) and it makes life a little bit harder.

    Yikes, sorry to rant: you definitely wrote a blog we can all relate to!

  • Kiersten says:

    Yes, I’ve been pretty miserable about job prospects ever since I’ve moved to Champaign. It doesn’t help that the university here also has a freeze on hiring. We have a junior college, too, but again, I’m up against a bunch of art history PhD students from the university, and they’re already fully staffed.

    It is true that engineers get the royal treatment, too. My husband has had so many amazing opportunities, and actually gets paid a decent amount of money just for going to school (not exorbitant, mind you, but enough that we won’t have to take out any loans). I am grateful, though, that all four years of his fellowship were paid by the sponsoring agency to the university up front, because in this economy, you never know…

  • M says:

    Isn’t it frustrating to have an MA and still feel like working as a checker at Target might be your only option? In some ways, I feel like I should be able to be picky, since I spent hours and hours and hours of work to get my graduate degree. But I guess masters degrees aren’t that prestigious or special anymore. Sigh.

    It seems to disheartening to go through years and years of a PhD program, only to (maybe) be able to get an adjunct position somewhere. Do you ever get discouraged, Zillah? I’m sure there is a lot of competition in your field as well. Would you be okay with an adjunct position after slaving away for years and years in your doctoral program?

  • Jon says:

    “there are too many people completing doctoral programs in the humanities. The supply of potential professors far exceeds the current demand.”

    Don’t say things like that! You’ll give me nightmares!

    Of course the real nightmare may come only after getting my PhD. Let’s hope the economy has improved by then (cough cough). :)

  • e says:

    Same problem in the health care sector. Although people still get sick during bad economic times, hospitals and clinics are businesses and have to make decisions to keep their business open. There are a lot of people getting hours cut or just being laid off. I’m encountering a lot of hiring freezes. The competition is fierce for what few positions there are.

    P is seeing the same thing in terms of computer IT jobs– when before it seemed like those type of jobs were innumerable.

    Just goes to show that even if you do have a really practical and marketable degree, it doesn’t matter that much at this point.

  • Krystal says:

    Good luck. My hubby and I are both very happy to be educators. I think you’d be a great teacher, too. Austin is considering getting his PhD so that he could teach at a college. Many colleges will hire teachers with a MA as long as they are currently working on a doctorate. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll find something that you can be very happy doing.

  • Lizzy Lambson says:

    Wow! Lots of comments–but I just wanted to say I think you would be a great AP art history teacher. The hardest classes and the BEST classes I’ve taken, even including BYU classes, were my AP history classes in high school. You could be the next best thing.

  • Rachelle & Dave says:

    Monica,

    Just so you know, even though I have a job teaching part time at a community college (for which I feel very blessed) I have the same qualms as you do. I am now realizing that when I was working in university administration full time I probably had a really great job that I took for granted simply because I wasn’t teaching. I do sometimes feel like our obsession with getting a PhD is built into us because we feel like it is the only forward. Recently I realized that if I wanted to go back and retool and become a midwife or something–it would take about the exact same amount of time as it would to go back and get my PhD! Even counting all of the prereqs I would have to take to get my nursing degree. Anyway, I feel your pain. Some people do still get tenure track jobs–but they are few and far between.

    Also, as a side note–BYU Idaho just announced that they are expanding to 16,000 students (up from 11,000) and they will be doing it without hiring ANY new tenure track professors. They are hiring all adjuncts (don’t check though–they all have to live in Utah/Idaho) and those adjuncts will be teaching online. It’s a crazy world out there–I’m really not sure that our university system is sustainable. It will interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

  • Rachelle & Dave says:

    Monica,

    Just so you know, even though I have a job teaching part time at a community college (for which I feel very blessed) I have the same qualms as you do. I am now realizing that when I was working in university administration full time I probably had a really great job that I took for granted simply because I wasn’t teaching. I do sometimes feel like our obsession with getting a PhD is built into us because we feel like it is the only forward. Recently I realized that if I wanted to go back and retool and become a midwife or something–it would take about the exact same amount of time as it would to go back and get my PhD! Even counting all of the prereqs I would have to take to get my nursing degree. Anyway, I feel your pain. Some people do still get tenure track jobs–but they are few and far between.

    Also, as a side note–BYU Idaho just announced that they are expanding to 16,000 students (up from 11,000) and they will be doing it without hiring ANY new tenure track professors. They are hiring all adjuncts (don’t check though–they all have to live in Utah/Idaho) and those adjuncts will be teaching online. It’s a crazy world out there–I’m really not sure that our university system is sustainable. It will interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.