Career Guidance Any advice in regards to my journey to become a history professor?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
14,306
SoCal
#1
Basically, I want to become a history professor as my long-term career and I would like to hear if anyone here has any advice in regards to achieving this goal. Basically, what exactly should I know, how exactly should I try to maximize my odds of success, et cetera. Indeed, I hope that someone here with more experience in regards to this can help give me some guidance on this. :)

Also, for the record, I probably (I'm still an undergraduate right now) want to become a professor of modern (as in, post-1815) European history with a focus on modern (post-1815) German history. :)
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,610
Blachernai
#3
Read. Read. Read some more. Don't worry so much about knowing things. Look at how people are approaching historical problems and pieces of evidence and be able to examine the pros and cons of those positions. Finding innovative solutions and knowing how to approach big historical problems are key. And by doing this you'll be seeing the approaches that others have taken and will thus be equipped for form your own. This is what will get you into a good grad school.
 
Jun 2015
579
Camelot
#4
Pick the most bizarre specialization that you enjoy reading about. The more uncommon the field, the more likely you are to get a position.
 
Sep 2012
1,045
咸亨酒店
#5
Don't forget languages; German, I suppose, in your case. Demonstrating your competence in reading and analysing primary texts in the original language is often key to getting on to post-grad programs. You'll probably need French somewhere along the line too I imagine.
 
Mar 2017
13
USA
#6
Have fluent German, conversational and reading. Have at least a reading knowledge of French, Italian, and at least one eastern European language (Polish, maybe). Take some academic training at a German or Austrian university that's known for your field. Find a specialization early on in your studies. Correspond with the principal living authorities in your field you do not study directly under to become known outside your own campus. Attend conferences in your field and socialize with the bonzes. Best of luck.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,610
Blachernai
#7
Pick the most bizarre specialization that you enjoy reading about. The more uncommon the field, the more likely you are to get a position.
I think there's a case to be made against this. I think you should aim to be doing something unique in a young and exciting field if you want to stand out. The academic job market is very dire in much of the world these days and a lot of universities are looking for young professors who both show research promise on exciting* topics and can teach a wide range of undergraduate courses. An arcane specialization can be a way to get ignored.

*completely subjective, of course, but there's no denying that academia has its phases of what it deems worth of study.
 
Oct 2016
933
Merryland
#8
Read. Read. Read some more. Don't worry so much about knowing things. Look at how people are approaching historical problems and pieces of evidence and be able to examine the pros and cons of those positions. Finding innovative solutions and knowing how to approach big historical problems are key. And by doing this you'll be seeing the approaches that others have taken and will thus be equipped for form your own. This is what will get you into a good grad school.
+1. and read outside the textbooks.

I have done some Bible teaching and I find my reading of the history of the times (especially military) gives me a better understanding.

all cultures have agriculture, some kind of religion, and almost always conduct some kinds of war. consider reading about those three areas.
 
Jul 2010
1,374
N/A
#9
Basically, I want to become a history professor as my long-term career and I would like to hear if anyone here has any advice in regards to achieving this goal. Basically, what exactly should I know, how exactly should I try to maximize my odds of success, et cetera. Indeed, I hope that someone here with more experience in regards to this can help give me some guidance on this. :)

Also, for the record, I probably (I'm still an undergraduate right now) want to become a professor of modern (as in, post-1815) European history with a focus on modern (post-1815) German history. :)
It's a long road to the top. Start from the bottom, BA with Honors and thesis, then you can consider a PhD. 4 years on top of another 4 years (UK/Australian system at full pace) and then you might get your desire to be a lecturer. As others have said, the market for lecturers is very dire. At one point you would get your foot in the door with an Honors to be a sessional lecturer, now I see people with PhDs that are struggling to get jobs as sessional lecturers. People with tenure can have careers for 30 to 40 years so that's the problem. Couple it with the fact some tenured lecturers drop off their perch before they lose their job and you have a career that is one of the hardest to break into.

What sets the person apart is where your degree comes from. You're not going to get to the top by staying at Millersville. You have to go through another university of some reputability and then hopefully get a place in one of those universities where you can get some actual work.

The people who are most successful are as what others have said already. Interdisciplinary specialists that can teach breadth as opposed to depth. Your students will give you the nescessary depth by themselves. You have to be able to be the starting point however.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2012
1,045
咸亨酒店
#10
Interdisciplinary is a strange one. Whilst it does pay to be able to teach breadth, without a clear focus or specialisation it can also be tough. I come from an area studies background, which is as interdisciplinary as it gets, and prospects are really bad. Folks are having to transfer out into other 'purer' programs such as history or anthropology, because funding and jobs are becoming scarcer and scarcer. One of my current 'interdisciplinary' teachers is having to essentially retrain as a historian at the moment in order to further her career. It's even a problem I'm having to negotiate as a post-grad. Being able to teach breadth within one's field is probably preferable than being able to teach across fields - at least from what I've observed.
 

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