Humanities Indicators
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Occupations of College Graduates Who Majored in Humanities Disciplines

Students who majored in the humanities were more evenly distributed across major occupational categories than students in all but one of the other major fields, suggesting that humanistic training at the undergraduate level equips people to operate in a variety of occupational roles—by offering them marketable skills and/or allowing them to successfully pursue advanced training.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2009, 56% of terminal bachelor’s holders (TBHs) in the humanities had worked in management, professional, and related occupations in the previous five years (Indicator III-3a).[1] These workers included the 15% of humanities TBHs who were in education-related occupations, approximately two-thirds of them in precollegiate teaching. Another 12% worked as managers of various kinds. The two next most prevalent types of occupations in the management and professional category were business and financial operations and arts, design, entertainment, and media, with approximately 7% of humanities TBHs holding jobs in each of these two broad occupational categories.
  • Looking beyond managerial/professional jobs, approximately 15% of TBHs in the humanities worked in office and administrative support occupations. A similar proportion, 14%, worked in sales, while 9% held service jobs.
  • Although humanities majors were less likely than those in most other fields to hold professional, managerial, or related occupations, humanities majors were the likeliest (with the exception of those who majored in education), to work in the education field (Indicator III-3b). Humanities TBHs were also more likely to work in office and administrative support positions than were TBHs in any other field.
  • Approximately 19% of humanities TBHs worked in “applied humanities” occupations, which include education-related jobs (although the data do not indicate whether those working in education are teaching humanities subjects or administering programs with a humanities orientation), museum and library occupations, writers, news analysts, reporters and correspondents, editors (text), and tour and travel guides.[2]
  • The data suggest that the bulk of humanities majors, both TBHs and advanced degree holders, worked in occupations that were not directly related to the disciplines in which they received their degrees.[3]
III-3a: Occupational Distribution of Holders of Terminal Bachelor’s Degrees in the Humanities,* 2009

* Employed at any time in the previous five years.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

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III-3b: Occupational Distribution of Holders of Terminal Bachelor’s Degrees,* by Undergraduate Major, 2009

* Employed at any time in the previous five years. See the data table associated with this indicator for more occupational detail.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

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Endnotes

[1] Respondents who had more than one job in the previous five years were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours.
[2] TBHs in “applied humanities” occupations include educators (14.5% of all humanities TBHs); museum and library staff (0.7%); writers (1.7%); news analysts, reporters, and correspondents (0.4%); text editors (1.3%); and tour and travel guides (0.1%).
[3] This conclusion seems justified even though the way in which the American Community Survey classifies occupations does not allow for the counting of humanities majors working in other occupations, such as translators and historians, that can be thought of as humanistic in their orientation.