January 23, 2022

Reference: New Data on Careers, Earnings, and Advanced Degrees in the Humanities (U.S.)

From the Humanities Indicators Project (from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences):

As of 2013, 60% of employed humanities Ph.D.’s reported teaching at the postsecondary level as their principal job. In comparison, 30% of employed doctoral degree recipients in all fields combined were in postsecondary teaching.

Outside the humanities, the arts were the only field for which more than half of Ph.D.’s were employed as teachers in academia. Among doctoral degree recipients in engineering and the life, physical, and medical science fields, 18–28% of employed doctoral degree recipients were in postsecondary teaching, while more than 42% of graduates in each of these fields were employed either in science and engineering jobs or (in the case of graduates from the health and medical sciences) in healthcare.

Our findings also show that doctorate recipients in the humanities had the lowest median earnings of Ph.D.’s in any of the major academic fields (though due to small sample size, Ph.D.’s in the arts are not included).

The Indicators also report a 19% decline from 2009 to 2014 in the share of humanities Ph.D.’s reporting definite employment at the time they earned their degrees.

A separate report finds that 43.5% of employed humanities master’s degree recipients were employed in teaching positions, nearly twice the share of graduates from all fields combined (22.2%). The difference was particularly wide in postsecondary teaching.

The concentration of humanities graduates in postsecondary teaching is particularly striking, with 22.5% of humanities graduates employed in this sector compared to less than 4% of master’s and professional degree recipients in all fields combined.

Similar to the findings for doctoral degree recipients, college graduates with a master’s degree in the humanities or education had the lowest median earnings of any major academic field ($58,000), however the gender gap was the narrowest found in any major academic field.


About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.