Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data
from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,
Updated (3/11/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).
Note on Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares
Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees.
Although master’s degrees in the humanities were awarded somewhat more often to
men than women in the mid-1960s, by 1970 gender parity had been achieved. Women
subsequently went on to become the majority of humanities master’s recipients, garnering
60% of all degrees awarded in 2010 (a slight decline from 2004’s record high of
62%; Figure II-13a). In 2010, only education/social service professions and the
health sciences awarded a substantially greater percentage of master’s degrees to
women than did the humanities. Business, engineering, law, and physical sciences
awarded considerably smaller shares. At the master’s level, as at the bachelor's, the percentage
of humanities degrees awarded to women has traditionally been higher than that for
all fields combined, although the gap narrowed steadily over time, almost disappearing
in the early years of the new century.
In the mid-1960s, the humanities, like all other academic disciplines, awarded only
a small minority of doctoral degrees to women. Though they fared better in the humanities
than in nearly all other fields, women still received only 19% of humanities doctorates
at that time (Figure II-13b). Throughout the 1970s, however, this percentage increased
steadily, and by the mid-1980s women represented approximately 45% of all new humanities
doctoral degree recipients.
As the 1980s continued, growth of women’s share of humanities degrees slowed, and
gender parity was not reached until the mid-1990s. Thereafter, doctoral degrees
continued to be distributed quite evenly between men and women, in contrast to the
lower degree levels where the share of female degree recipients continued to grow.
Nonetheless, the percentage of humanities doctorates awarded to women has traditionally
been greater than that for all fields combined. By the mid-2000s, however, the situation
was similar to that at the master’s level: the share of humanities doctorates awarded
to women was approximately the same as that for all fields considered together.
(For information regarding the gender distribution of advanced degree completions
in particular humanities disciplines, please see Part II, Section C, Undergraduate
and Graduate Degree Information for Specific Humanities Disciplines).
Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES)
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Glossary, master’s degrees are “awards that require
the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full-time equivalent
of 1 academic year, but not more than 2 academic years of work beyond the bachelor’s
The NCES, which collects the degree completion data presented as part of the Humanities
Indicators, defines first professional degrees as those awards that require completion
of a program that meets all the following criteria: (1) completion of the academic
requirements to begin practice in a profession; (2) at least two years of college
work prior to entering the program; and (3) a total of at least six academic years
of college work to complete the degree program, including prior required college
work plus the length of the professional program itself. According to NCES, the
following ten fields award first professional degrees:
Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
Although some fields (e.g., library science, hospital administration, and social
work) require specialized degrees for employment at the professional level, NCES
does not count degrees in these fields as first professional degrees; instead, they
are treated as master’s degrees.
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
Law (LL.B. or J.D.)
Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination)
Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.)
Whereas all doctorates had previously been included in a single category, for academic
years 2008–2009 and 2009–2010 NCES gave schools the option of employing a new classification
system that distinguishes among three types of doctoral degrees:
Research/Scholarship—A Ph.D. or other doctoral degree that requires advanced
work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation
based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project
demonstrating scholarly achievement;
Schools could classify certain degrees that had historically been treated as first
professional degrees as either “Professional Practice” doctoral degrees (as in the
case of medical degrees, for example) or master’s degrees (as in the case of advanced,
nondoctoral degrees in theology).
Professional Practice—A doctoral degree conferred upon completion of a program
providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credentialing, or licensing
required for professional practice; or
Other—A doctoral degree that does not meet the definition of the research/scholarship
or professional practice doctorate.
To ensure comparability with previous years, for 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 the Humanities
Indicators counted as doctorates all of those degrees classified by postsecondary
institutions as “Doctorate Degree,” “Doctorate Degree—Research/Scholarship,” or
“Doctorate Degree—Other.” The HI treated as “master’s and professional degrees”
those degrees classified by schools as “Doctorate Degree—Professional Practice,”
“First Professional Degree,” or “Master’s Degree.”
For academic year 2010–2011, NCES eliminated the “first professional degree” category.
The agency now requires schools to use the three-category system described above
to classify all advanced degrees other than master’s degrees.
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Note on Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares
The bulk of the data that form the basis of this indicator is drawn from the U.S.
Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher
Education General Information System (HEGIS; 1966–1986) and its successor, the Integrated
Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS; 1987–present), through which institutions
of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing
degree programs (as well as a variety of other topics; for more on IPEDS, see
http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS
degree-completion data have been made accessible to decision-makers, researchers,
and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data
Degree-completion data for years 1948 through 1965 were derived from the Survey
of Earned Degrees, which was first administered by the Office of Education (the
Department of Education’s predecessor) and later by NCES. The Survey of Earned Degrees
data were culled from printed publications, because the information is not included
in WebCASPAR. For the trend lines extending back to 1948, data are presented only
for a limited portfolio of humanities disciplines, because the academic discipline
classification systems employed by NCES in its reporting on the Survey of Earned
Degrees and HEGIS are not fine-grained enough to capture the full complement of
disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators (HI) to be within the scope
of the humanities. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as
part of the humanities by the HI, see the
Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.)
For 1987 and later years (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree
recipients), however, WebCASPAR categorizes earned degrees according to the more
detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP). The CIP was first developed
by NCES in 1980 as a way of accounting for the tremendous variety of degree programs
offered by American institutions of higher learning and has been revised three times
since its introduction, most recently in 2009 (this version is referred to as “CIP
2010”). The CIP has also been adopted by Statistics Canada as its standard disciplinary
classification system. An analysis of completions using CIP permits the HI to include
earned degrees in a substantially greater number of the disciplines considered by
the HI to be part of the humanities field.
With CIP-coded data academic disciplines such as comparative
religion can be separated from vocational programs such as theology and thus can
be included in the humanities degree tally. Additionally, when using CIP-coded data,
the HI can include degrees in such disciplines as archeology, women’s studies, gay
and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies in its counts of humanities degrees from
For an inventory of the CIP disciplinary categories included by the HI under the
field heading of “humanities” (as well as those categories of the NSF-developed
taxonomy of academic disciplines that are the basis of the HI’s tabulations of 1)
degrees in nonhumanities fields and 2) certain tabulations of humanities degrees
for years 1966–1986), see the
NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. This catalog also indicates which degree
programs the HI includes within specific humanities disciplines (e.g., for the purposes
of the HI, English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English
Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).
In the case of several of the degree-related indicators, the humanities are compared
to certain other fields such as the sciences and engineering. The nature of these
fields is specified in the
Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.
These broad fields do not encompass all postsecondary programs. Therefore, where
fields are being compared in terms of their respective shares of all degrees, the
percentages will not add up to 100%. Also, none of the graphs showing change over
time in the share of degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented
ethnic/minority groups includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because
the NCES did not release such data for that year.
The bachelor’s degree counts presented in Figures II-1a and II-1b do not include
“second majors,” because NCES began collecting data about these degrees only in
2001. The HI deals separately with the issue of second majors in
Figure II-1c (“Humanities
Bachelor’s Degrees Earned as ‘Second Majors,’ 2001–2010”).
Data on the number of students completing minors are not collected as part of IPEDS,
but such information was compiled for selected humanities disciplines as part of
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences–sponsored Humanities Departmental Survey
(HDS; see the HDS final report, page 8, Table 12).
1 For those
indicators reporting only degree data for years 1987 and onward (1995 and onward
for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by
members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded
data are always the basis of the humanities degree counts presented.
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