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Alternative Jobs for Humanities PhDs

Apr 04, 2011

With colleges and universities still struggling to recover from the recession, academic jobs have become frighteningly scarce. So what's a humanities Ph.D. to do? Read on to discover seven career paths that can take you outside of the academy.

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By Megan Driscoll

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Museums

Museum work is an obvious choice for students of art history, but it also offers career options for many other disciplines. Anthropologists and historians can find curatorial work in science, cultural and natural history museums. And the skills acquired by any humanities Ph.D. student can be applied to research, development, public relations, community outreach and education, all essential roles in the museum world.

Learn more through professional organizations like the American Association of Museums.

Consulting

Every graduate student knows how to have an opinion, and when it comes down to it, that's all consulting is. Consultants draw on their knowledge and expertise - of which you will have plenty by the time you finish that dissertation - to offer advice to companies in almost any industry.

Individuals who would rather stay close to higher education than business may be interested in educational consulting. These professionals typically work for consulting firms, but they focus on projects related to academia - from developing new departments to creating long-term financial plans.

Seek out local consulting firms and related professional associations for more information.

Publishing

Publishing jobs are available to humanities graduates in both scholarly and non-academic presses. Editing is the most common position because it relies on the analytical and research skills common to all doctoral students. Other options include layout design, production, sales and marketing and even information technology.

Students who are interested in working for an academic press should look into the Association of American University Presses. Others should consider contacting the Association of American Publishers.

Library and Information Sciences

Many humanities graduates go on to pursue careers as academic librarians in lieu of teaching, but this path typically requires an additional degree - the Master of Library Science (MLS).

However, there are also many opportunities in public libraries, privately owned libraries and the rapidly growing field of information science. Check with the American Library Association to learn more.

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Research

If you loved performing research but don't have the stomach for 'publish or perish,' then a career in professional research may be right for you. You may find yourself doing everything from investigating obscure questions (just like your thesis!) to performing market research and program evaluations. A wide variety of organizations rely on academically trained researchers, including think tanks, nonprofits, government organizations and businesses of all kinds.

Look for professional organizations like the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement to get started.

Nonprofits

You won't make your fortune working for a nonprofit, but these organizations do tend to foster a culture that's very friendly to humanities graduates. This umbrella term refers to a range of groups that cater to almost any interest, including the arts, health, religion, political advocacy, social justice and (see above) non-industry research. Although many positions in nonprofits are administrative, they tend to rely on smart, analytical thinkers to fill many different roles - this is a great field for anyone who loves to 'think outside the box.'

There are a number of resources for individuals looking for nonprofit volunteering and work opportunities, including Idealist.org and the National Council of Nonprofit Associations.

Government

Interested in foreign policy? How about performing analysis for the CIA? Or offering your unique knowledge of a foreign culture to promote diplomatic relations? The federal government hires a surprising number of writers, historians, anthropologists and other humanities specialists to perform essential tasks in research, analysis, consulting and related roles.

Check the USA Jobs website for current opportunities, or look into specific organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Still searching for the perfect job? Consider turning to a career coach.

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