Schools are churning out doctoral graduates but the job pool isn’t strong enough to support so many people. As a wise man once said, something that can’t go on forever, won’t.

Scott Jaschik writes at Inside Higher Ed:

The Shrinking Humanities Job Market

Many new Ph.D.s in humanities disciplines report that they struggle to find academic jobs, and that many of the positions they find available are off the tenure track.

Data released Sunday night by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences show that these anecdotes reflect realities in a wide range of humanities disciplines. And the data show that Ph.D. production in these fields is up, suggesting that the job shortage won’t go away any time soon.

The data are part of the academy’s Humanities Indicators Project, which is regularly updated with new analyses — many of which alarm academics in the humanities, even as they applaud the availability of the data.

Those Entering the Job Market

One analysis released Sunday looked at completions of doctoral degrees. Humanities programs awarded 5,891 doctoral degrees in 2015. That is the largest number recorded back to the start of collection of such information in 1987. The figure was 3,110 in 1988, then rose steadily to 4,994 in 2000, dipped to about 4,700 from 2002 to 2007, and then started going up again, year after year.

The long period of time it takes to earn humanities doctorates (8-10 year time-to-completions are not uncommon) means that prospective graduate students must take a long view in terms of thinking about likely job prospects when they finish. But the steady increases in Ph.D. completions since 2007 cover a period of sharp job cuts when the economic downturn started in 2008, slight improvements a few years later (but not to pre-downturn levels) and more reductions in positions since then.

Chart by Inside Higher Ed:

(Number of Job Postings With Humanities Disciplinary Associations, 2000-16)