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Leaving a Legacy From the OAH Executive Director Katherine M. Finley

Career Opportunities in History


n the 1960s and earlier, the natural career path for someone with a history PhD was to start out as an assistant professor of history at a college or university and then work up to the position of professor. According to the American Historical Association’s (AHA) History as a Career (1964), “Instructors in the universities spend, on average, five years in the rank technically known as ‘instructorship,’ five more years as an ‘assistant professor’ and six years an ‘associate professor’ before reaching full rank as ‘professor’ at an average age of forty-three.” Although this AHA career booklet went on to say that “it is generally agreed that college professors are not paid salaries as high as their professional training entitles them to expect,” it also notes that university professors are rewarded with tenure-track positions, earn pay for doing what they love, and receive royalties from books, consulting projects, and lectures. How times have changed! Obtaining a tenure-track position in history has never been easy, and today the market is tighter than ever before. In fact, a recent study by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce has shown that universities and colleges are relying on teaching from adjunct instructors and part-time faculty at a higher rate than ever before. In the past, a position as an adjunct or part-time faculty might have been a good way to obtain necessary professional experience and eventually move into a tenuretrack position, but that scenario is no longer the case, especially given the decrease in the number of tenure-track positions. Even so, a history degree remains valuable, and may open doors that normally would be closed to those with only a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Moreover, there are good history jobs available, but many of them are not in the academy. Many OAH members work in the federal government, museums, archives, libraries, policy centers, high schools, and nonprofit organizations. The OAH is very concerned about the job market for American historians, and we are making a concerted effort to help our younger members belong to and receive value from the organization. (See OAH President Al Camarillo’s article, “The OAH and the Big Tent,” in the August 2012 issue of OAH Outlook.) We are pleased to announce the availability of the Versatile PhD (VPhD) Web site ( as a benefit to OAH members. The mission of the Versatile PhD is “to help humanities and social science graduate students, ABDs and PhDs identify, prepare for and excel in nonacademic careers.” The “premium content” on this site is now available to you as part of your membership. We have joined the American Historical Association in partnering with VPhD to allow OAH members to access material on this site, which includes hiring success stories, career autobiographies, as well as archived panel discussions. We will soon supplement our own Web site to include interviews with individuals who have used their doctoral degree in history to find rewarding jobs in the field, statistics about job opportunities in various fields, links to career-related articles and resources, and tips on interviewing and searching for a job outside academia. Additionally, we plan to expand the OAH Career Center ( to include professional opportunities in museums, libraries, universities, and nonprofit organizations. The OAH realizes times have changed, and we want to ensure that those with degrees in history are finding good jobs in the field. Please contact me to let me know of your success stories and how you are facing the unique challenges of the profession in today’s job market. ■

When most people think about a planned gift, they think about placing a bequest to an organization in their will. A bequest is the most common form of planned giving. Bequests in wills, along with life insurance policies, and individual retirement account (IRA) designations, are known as expectancies (a promise to make a gift to an organization at some future date). This type of gift is advantageous for donors, is easy to establish, and does not involve an immediate outlay of funds. For heirs, this type of gift may also reduce the amount owed through estate or inheritance taxes. However, such a gift can be revoked prior to the donor’s death and the assets named in these expectancies can be used to provide long-term health care for the donor. Below are descriptions of the three major types of expectancies. Life Insurance. A donor may assign the ownership of or beneficiary to a paid-up insurance policy, or an insurance policy on which premiums remain to be paid, to the OAH. Or the donor may name the organization as the primary or successor beneficiary (but not the owner) of the policy. By specifying the OAH as a beneficiary of an insurance policy, the donor is not giving up a sizeable amount of cash during his or her lifetime. If the organization is named as both the owner and a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the donor may take an income tax deduction equal to the surrender value of the policy as well as on any future premiums paid. Retirement Plans and Individual Retirement Accounts. The OAH may be named as the beneficiary of a retirement plan or IRA. Naming the organization as a beneficiary is simple. The donor merely needs to request and complete a beneficiary designation form from the retirement plan administrator. The OAH may be named as the full or partial beneficiary of the retirement plan’s assets upon the owner’s death. Bequests. A bequest is a statement in the donor’s will designating the OAH as a recipient of a specific asset, a specific dollar amount, or a percentage of the donor’s estate. There are a number of other planned giving instruments available to individuals. In future issues we will examine deferred gifts (annuities and trusts) and outright gifts of stock, real estate, and tangible personal property. Planned gifts are an integral part of any estate planning. These gifts are an important way you can make a difference for future historians and ensure that the OAH serves its members and the profession for years to come. Please contact Katherine Finley, OAH Executive Director, to learn more. ■

November 2012 • OAH Outlook • 3

OAH Outlook, November, 2012  

OAH Outlook: A Membership Newsletter of the Organization of American Historians, provides news of the organization and the history professio...

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