There is a persistent false perception that the humanities PhD is primarily a training program for future university faculty researchers. In reality, PhDs in the humanities and interpretive social sciences have meaningful careers in a variety of sectors, from academia to industry, government and nonprofits. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to release Public Pathways: Lessons about PhD Careers from 10 Years of Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows, a new report that provides insights into some of those career paths. The report reflects outcomes of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program, including illustrative examples of alumni career pathways, as well as career development resources and advice specific to humanities PhDs seeking to explore careers beyond the academy.  

From 2011-2022, the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program placed nearly 200 humanities and interpretive social sciences PhDs in two-year positions in government and nonprofit organizations across the United States. Through fellows’ work and accomplishments, the program demonstrated the broad applicability of advanced humanistic training to work and careers beyond the academy. Fellows built capacity at hosting organizations while demonstrating the dynamic potential of humanities PhDs.

“The Public Pathways report is a glimpse into the significant impact of the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program and into some of the lessons we can learn from the fellowship about graduate education and career pathways,” said ACLS President Joy Connolly. “We hope it can be useful to current PhD students who seek to understand the range of possible futures before them and to those who support every element of doctoral education—faculty, administrators, and beyond.”

Read the full report