A recurring theme in my blogging of the past year (e.g. here: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4) has been that a degree in Scandinavian archaeology (BA, MA or PhD) is almost entirely useless from a career perspective. The reason is that our labour market is over-populated at all levels, from the lowly shovel-wielder to the august professor. In my past posts, I’ve documented this in various ways.
Since getting my degree in 2003, I’ve applied for twelve academic jobs in Scandinavia, all requiring a PhD in archaeology. A number of temporary jobs have also been given discreetely to people already within departments, which is the standard way to get teaching experience, but the twelve listed below are almost all that have been offered publicly (and one of them was never given to anyone, as funding turned out to be wanting). I have thus amassed a little dataset that should be representative.
|Visby 2003, lecturer||43|
|Lund 2003, post-doc||36|
|Copenhagen 2004, lecturer||46|
|Gothenburg 2004, post-doc||(Job|
|Uppsala 2004, lecturer||43|
|Oslo 2004, lecturer||41|
|Kiel 2005, researcher||?|
|Stockholm 2006, post-doc||41|
|Uppsala 2006, researcher||39|
|Kalmar 2006, lecturer||41|
|Aarhus 2006, lecturer||33|
Usually between 15 and 20 people have applied for each of these jobs, but they have not largely been the same people every time. So, for eleven jobs in four years, over one hundred individual scholars have applied.
The median age of the eleven highly qualified people who got the jobs was 41. As qualifications tend to grow in proportion to one’s age, it is very hard for someone below that age to compete. And here comes the beautiful bit: Swedish post-doc jobs (forskarassistenttjänster) are only open to people who have completed their PhD less than five years ago. This means that it is perfectly useless to do your PhD at an early age in Swedish archaeology. By the time you’re 41 and competitive, you are no longer eligible for post-doc jobs.
So, why does the machine keep churning out archaeologists when nobody wants them? I can see a number of reasons.
- Most importantly, hundreds of kids who like archaeology apply for MA programs every year without any thought of whether it will lead to a job.
- University teachers are highly motivated to keep the kids coming, because otherwise they would lose their jobs.
- Senior scholars need to recruit and supervise PhD students to qualify for full professorship.
- Full professors need PhD students who publish papers, because this is part of the basis for a department’s funding.