Peter Conn has written a helpful, guiding piece called "We Need to Acknowledge the Realities of Employment in the Humanities." The bottom lines include:
- University humanities departments are shrinking.
- Adjunct professors are growing in numbers; tenured faculty are diminishing (anyone who teaches at a college or unversity easily sees this).
- "Full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities are endangered by half a dozen trends, most of them long-term."
- The "University of Phoenix" phenomenon ("for-profit education") is growing. "According to a report in The Chronicle in February, 7 percent of all American postsecondary students attend for-profit institutions. Presumably, like Phoenix, all of those colleges and universities depend mainly on part-time faculty members."
- Getting a job with a Ph.D in the humanities is harder than ever.
- University humanities departments are not responding to these and other threatening conditions.
Though jobs may be few, I consistently see, in the students I am privileged to instruct every semester, a deep desire to talk about the Big Questions. For example, I just finished giving 60 10-minute oral exams to my philosophy of religion students. A number of them tell me how interesting and meaningful they find our class discussions as we talk and teach about God (existence/non-existence), evil (as problematic for God), meaning (nihilism; teleological thinking), ethics (moral values: objective/subjective), neurophilosophy (mind/brain matters; qualia; dualism), and free will. Just yesterday a few of my students told me they would like to major or minor in philosophy. These deep issues remain important. What is it to be "human?" Hence: the Humanities.
See Conn's 5 recommendations for graduate programs in the humanities.