AAR and SBL Issue Important Jobs Report
November 5, 2012
Dear AAR Members:
I am pleased to announce the release of a Jobs Report that tracks AAR and SBL job listing data in religious, biblical and theological studies from 2001 through 2010. This report is historic in two regards. First, it reports on the past decade with an eye toward identifying key and important trends. Second, it is our first baseline collection and evaluation of a set of data that will facilitate annual updating and long-term analysis. Most importantly, while the findings may not be predictive, we believe they are instructive. AAR and SBL are laying plans to address several issues with regard to the job market and graduate education, and we see this as a first step in that larger project.
I am particularly grateful to Charlie Haws of the SBL staff who was the chief architect of the study, as well as Stephanie Gray for the AAR staff.
The full study can be found here. A summary and a list of key findings follow.
I hope to see you in Chicago!
SummaryData collected by the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion reveal various characteristics of note about the job market in biblical, religious, and theological studies. Most striking are the relatively steady hiring trends in the early 2000s contrasted with significant changes to the market starting in 2008. In 2008 81.6% of positions listed were tenure track, but in 2009 51.1% were listed as tenure track and in 2010 61.0% were listed as tenure track. The lowest percentage of tenure-track positions from 2001 through 2008 was in 2003 (73.7%). These findings may indicate that the job market for the 2009 academic year fundamentally changed, not only shrinking but reconfiguring with a greater emphasis on non-tenure-track employment. Hiring at the end of 2010 indicates an upward trend, but it is significantly down from historic highs. Hires for new positions accounted for 37.9% of positions from 2001 through 2007, but without sufficient data for 2008 through 2010 it is not possible to know whether new positions continue to constitute a significant percentage of the hiring landscape. Many of these changes are likely due to global economic factors; continued attention to the data may reveal whether they are temporary or permanent.
It is clear from the data, nonetheless, that candidates should focus on acquiring a Ph.D., obtaining teaching experience, and ensuring that interdisciplinary teaching or research is part of their repertoire. The data do not reflect whether or not publishing of journal articles, books, and/or monographs was desired or required. The overwhelming majority of positions, averaging 66.9% from 2001 through 2007, requires—not simply desires—a Ph.D. and 69.2% of positions either require or desire prior teaching experience. While only 9.7% of positions require interdisciplinary teaching or research, 25.2% desired evidence of the skill or experience.
1. The decade under consideration experienced significant fluctuation in the number of job advertisements. Sharp decline marked 2008 to 2009 (-45.8%) and ad numbers in 2010 were just below ad levels for 2001 (494 and 511 respectively).
2. In 2008 81.6% of positions listed were tenure track, but this figure decreased to 51.1% in 2009 and 61.0% in 2010. These findings may indicate that the job market for the 2009 academic year fundamentally changed, not only shrinking but apparently reconfiguring with a greater emphasis on non-tenure-track employment.
3. Hiring for new positions and vacancies accounted for 85.1% of position listings.
4. For ads posted with SBL and AAR from 2001 through 2010, the three most important skills or experiences desired or required by employers were (in order) holding a Ph.D., prior teaching experience, and interdisciplinary teaching or research.
5. Data may suggest that demand for Ph.D. and M.A. instruction has increased with little correlative effect on the demand for B.A., M.Div., and Th.D. or D.Min. instruction.
6. Jobs posted with the organizations were almost exclusively full-time rather than part-time.
7. Fields of study for positions themselves were diverse but populated three major categories. Positions dealing with modern religions and their histories, including comparative and world religions, accounted for 31.6% of ads. Positions in biblical studies and related disciplines —including Ancient Near Eastern languages and literatures, Second Temple Judaism, and early Christianity —accounted for 29.0% of ads. Positions in theology, philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics accounted for 21.9% of ads.
8. Positions in Islam were the major driver for the growth of positions dealing with modern religions and their histories between 2008 and 2009, increasing fourfold and accounting for 32.9% of such positions in that period.
9. New Testament and early Christianity positions drove the rebound for positions focused on biblical studies, accounting for 39.5% of such positions in 2010.
10. Positions in theology have led growth among positions in theology, philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics, doubling from 2008 to 2010 and accounting for 61.0% of such positions in that period.
11. Not-for-profit, as opposed to public, institutions prevail in terms of the total number of positions.
12. Most jobs at public institutions represent institutions with Master’s and Doctorate programs. Similarly, most jobs at public institutions represent institutions with student enrollment figures of at least 10,000.
13. A majority of positions (64.3%) indicated that hires would teach undergraduate students, while 43.5% of positions indicated that hires would teach Master’s students and 27.0% of positions indicated that hires would teach doctoral students.
14. Positions at Special Focus institutions and Doctorate-granting institutions report the lowest course load at 5.0 and 5.1 courses per annum. Associate institutions report 5.4 courses per annum, while Baccalaureate institutions report 5.9 courses per annum. Master’s institutions reported the highest course load at 6.7 courses per annum.
15. Most hires would teach three to six courses per annum: 77.6% of not-for-profit institution ads and 77.2% of public institution ads indicated that hires would teach three to six courses per annum. Not-for-profit institutions, however, more frequently indicated a higher course load: 66.5% of not-for-profit institution ads indicated that hires would teach five to eight courses per annum, which compares with 51.8% of public institutions ads.
16. Institutions located in 28 countries posted ads with the organizations from 2001 through 2010, representing six of the seven continents. The overwhelming majority of institutions posting job ads with the organizations are located within the United States (90.2%). Five countries posted at least twenty ads from 2001 through 2010: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and The Netherlands.