Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Service of Clio

In Greek Mythology, Clio is the muse of history. Therefore, “In the Service of Clio” is what historian Nicholas Evan Sarantakes has titled his blog. I have been following this blog for several months now and enjoyed it so much that I went back and read every post in it. In the Service of Clio is a good read for those who have considered taking on the challenge of obtaining a doctorate in history. The benefit for the rest of us is seeing what there is to do in the field of history other than teaching on the university level.

Dr. Sarantakes is a military, diplomatic, and political historian who is the author of several books and multiple published articles. He has his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and is currently an associate professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. What is unique about his blog is that he has “guest bloggers” post articles concerning a career in academic history and the state of the profession. In the earlier postings on his blog, Dr. Sarantakes has discussed some alternate employment options for Ph.D.s in history. In the last couple of months, the subject is the budget strategy taken by universities to hire cheaper adjunct professors over more costly tenured positions and what effect that has on the job market in that field.

The bottom line is that there are too many Ph.D.s for the number of university teaching jobs available. That drives down salary and benefits, as it would in any profession. I hate to sound like my dad here, but a couple of old adages used to fly around my house, as I am sure they did in most of yours. The first piece of advice is to “do what you love and the money will follow.” The other thing dad used to say was “Whatever you do, be the best at it and you’ll always have a job.”

The best example I know of these wisdoms in action is my friend John. We met in the masters program at Shippensburg. We have a lot in common and I have a great admiration and respect for him. John retired from the army and is better read on the Civil War than anyone I know. The job market for MAs in history is as tight and pay is as low as it is for Ph.D.s. Nevertheless, John started the program knowing what he wanted to do when he finished. He wanted to work for the National Park Service and be a ranger at one of the Civil War Battlefields. While still pursuing his masters, John interned with the NPS. He networked and he studied the job market. Today, John is leading tours at Gettysburg Battlefield. I wonder if he knows how really amazing that is. Do what you love and the money will follow. Be the best at what you do and you will always have a job. Livin’ the dream. Way to go, John!

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