Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
The Age of New Humanities Ph.D.’s
(Updated November 2016)

Humanities Ph.D.’s are almost three years older than the median doctorate recipient, with a comparatively large share of older students earning the degree. This comes as little surprise, since doctoral students in the humanities tend to remain in graduate school longer than their counterparts in other fields.

Findings and Trends

  • The median age of new humanities Ph.D.’s was 34.2 years in 2014—almost three years older than the median among all new doctorate recipients (Indicator II-16f). Among academic and professional fields, only doctoral degree recipients in education had a higher median age (38.3).
  • From 1994 to 2014, the median age of new doctoral degree recipients in all fields declined more than 7% (a 2.5-year decline from 34.1 to 31.6). In the humanities, however, the median age fell 4%, (a 1.5-year decline from 35.7 to 34.2). The largest decline occurred among new doctoral degree recipients in education, where the median age fell more than five years (a 5.3-year decline from 43.6 to 38.3)—a 12% decline.
  • In the humanities, 21% of the new doctoral degree recipients in 2013 were under the age of 31, as compared to 48% or more of the graduates in engineering and the natural sciences (Indicator II-16g). A substantial plurality, 42%, of the new Ph.D.’s in the humanities were ages 31–35—the largest share in any field. Another 37% of humanities Ph.D.’s were over the age of 35. The only field with a larger share of degree recipients over age 35 was education.
II-16f: Median Age of New Doctorate Recipients, by Academic Field, 1994–2014
Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators (humanitiesindicators.org). Plotted values obtained from annual reports in the “Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities” series published by the National Science Foundation. All reports and online data resources are available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/. Table numbers for years: 1994 to 1998—A-3; 1999 to 2001, 2005—18; 2002 to 2004—17; 2006, 2008—20; 2007—S-20; 2009—24; and 2010 to 2014—27.
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II-16g: Age Distribution of New Doctorate Recipients, by Academic Field, 2013
Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators (humanitiesindicators.org). Plotted values obtained from National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013, NSF 15-304 (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, 2014), table 27.
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