February 15, 2008

PhDs in Art History—Over a Decade Later

PhDs in Art History – Over a Decade Later surveyed all PhD recipients who graduated from US art and architectural history programs during the academic years 1985 to 1991. The survey response rate was 66 percent (792 respondents). Respondents completed a 22-page questionnaire that focused on their employment histories from degree completion to the present and on the intersection of career and family. We also asked about respondents’ career goals, prior work experience, job search processes, factors important to the choice of their first jobs and their current jobs; for retrospective evaluations of their doctoral programs and the usefulness of the doctoral degree; the number and kind of their publications and memberships in professional organizations; and demographic information about respondents, their spouses and life partners, and their children.  The study was funded by the Getty Grant Foundation.

Main Findings:

  1. Although art history is a field with a majority of women (70 percent), men achieved tenure status more often and faster, earned more money, and were employed at institutions of greater prestige than women
  2. The main gender differences in career achievement are attributes of family status (marriage and children). Men benefited from marriage and fatherhood; women were disadvantaged by marriage and motherhood. Single women’s career achievements were nearly on par with married men
  3. The internal family/partnership arrangements of dual-career couples affected career outcomes
  4. Nearly 100 percent of the respondents were employed 10 to 15 years after PhD completion, most of them in jobs related to their fields of study
  5. The gap between academia and museum careers is wide; there are almost no crossovers between the sectors
  6. Dissertation advisors mainly encouraged academic career choices
  7. Job satisfaction was high, especially among museum professionals and tenured professors
  8. Respondents praised their education but criticized mentoring, job preparation, and help from faculty with job placement


Researchers: Renate Sadrozinski, Senior Research Associate, CIRGE, University of Washington, Seattle; Maresi Nerad, Professor and Director, CIRGE, University of Washington, Seattle; Joseph Cerny, Professor and Graduate Dean 1985-2000, University of California, Berkeley; and  Sylvia La, Project Assistant, University of California, Berkeley.


This report presents extensive information on individuals who received their PhD in the relatively small field of Art History. And yet many of its findings are applicable to a variety of fields both within the humanities and outside of it.The unique and original aspect of this study is its focus on generating an analysis of career paths and of family paths and the interconnections between these two paths.

Sadrozinski, Renate, Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny. 2003. PhDs in Art History—Over a Decade Later.  Download: PhDs in Art History—Over a Decade Later


  • Rudd, E., Morison E., Nerad, M., Sadrozinski, R., & Cerny, J. (2008).  Equality and Illusion:  Gender and Tenure in Art History Careers.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 70, no. 1, 228-238. Download: Equality and Illusion
  • Aanerud, R., Homer L, Rudd, E., Morrison, E, Nerad M., & Cerny, J. (2007).  Widening the Lens on Gender and Tenure: Looking beyond the Academic Labor Market, NWSA Journal, 19:3, pp. 105-123. Download: Widening the Lens on Gender