We have all heard the fable, “when the Baby Boomers retire there will be plenty of academic jobs available”. The sad truth is that this is not the case nor will it every be. Using the same data I collected on academics in archaeology I have graphed out by year when the current academic staff obtained their PhDs.
The key point to take away from this graph is that you still have people who obtained their degrees in the 1960′s and who must be in their 70′s pushing their 80′s still working as professors. The idea that by magic as someone turns 65 they will stop working is not played out in reality.
Next, remove all of the temporary positions from the equation-
Look at the stability of the numbers across time. Baby Boomers are categorized as those born in between the years 1946 and 1964. Past surveys have found that those obtaining their PhDs in the 1970′s were around 30 years old. Someone born in 1946 would have obtained their PhD around 1976. The Baby Boomers will roughly represent those who got their PhDs between the late 1970s to the early 1990′s. Yet, there is a steady stream from the early 1970′s (pre-baby boom) straight through to today. Yes, a slight bulge in early 2000′s but some assistant professors will fail tenure and lower these numbers. There is no great bulge of Baby Boomers relative to any other generation. Yes, some will retire but is looks to be a smooth transition without some giant rush to the exit that many people are hoping for. If you were expecting a mass Babyboomer rush it would like something like this-
Yet, we do not see any sort of pattern like that. In short, do not count on some magical “Baby Boom retirement” run to open up the number of academic jobs. Positions are distributed quite evenly across the board.