I would not mind the low salary -- it's reading and discussing good books, after all. But the disappearing job security is a really bad sign. I'm currently feeling the effects of that, and I'd rather have a guaranteed low salary rather than a higher salary but contingent employment.
Many in the humanities fear that their fields are going to suffer most. Humanities professors are already among the lowest-paid faculty members, according to the Humanities Indicators Prototype, a new, decade-long effort to establish a database of information led by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
What’s more, nearly half of all the positions are part time — with no job security and no benefits — a situation that many educators expect to worsen.
Many students now finishing their doctorates began working on them when the economy was in much better shape. It often takes about nine years to complete a dissertation in English, said Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard, explaining that students have to devote so many hours to teaching and making money that they don’t have time left over to write.
William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who writes a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education under the name Thomas Benton, has frequently tried to dissuade undergraduates from pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities. He is convinced that the recession will push universities to trim the number of tenure-track jobs further.