Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Postsecondary Humanities Faculty
 
Number of Faculty Members in Humanities and Other Fields
(Updated June 2016)

The number of humanities faculty members employed in postsecondary institutions increased steadily over the early years of the twenty-first century until 2013, but over the next two years their number changed little.

Findings and Trends

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that in the year 2015, 157,540 humanities faculty members were employed in the nation’s two- and four-year colleges and universities in the disciplines of area/ethnic/cultural studies, history, languages and literatures, philosophy, and religion (these are the only humanities disciplines for which the BLS collects data; Indicator III-9a). The BLS estimate, based on a sample survey of employers, includes both full-time and part-time faculty. (For a recent estimate of the shares of faculty of each type among humanities departments at four-year institutions, see the Humanities Departmental Survey.)[1]
  • The total number of humanities faculty in the disciplines for which data are available increased 54% from 1999 to 2013, with the number rising every year. Growth slowed after 2013, with the number of faculty increasing less than 1% over the next two years. The rise in humanities faculty from 1999 to 2013 coincided with a 41% increase in total student enrollments at the postsecondary level. In 2014 and 2015, the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities declined somewhat.[2]
  • Growth in the number of humanities faculty was modest in comparison to the health sciences, in which the number of faculty increased 103% from 1999 to 2013. And while the growth in the number of humanities faculty plateaued from 2013 to 2015, the number of health sciences faculty members continued to increase, rising 8% over that two-year period.
  • Although the number of humanities faculty members increased over the 2000s, the estimated share of all college and university faculty members working in humanities disciplines changed little, hovering between 11.0% and 12.3% from 2004 to 2015 (Indicator III-9b). In contrast, the share of faculty working in the health sciences rose substantially—from 11% to above 16% over the same period. The shares of faculty in the natural sciences and engineering declined slightly over the same time period.
  • The number of humanities faculty increased by 39% at two-year colleges from 2002 to 2015, and by 46% at four-year colleges and universities (Indicators III-9c and III-9d).[3] At both types of institution, the number of humanities faculty plateaued in the most recent years for which data are available, with relatively limited growth from 2013 to 2015. In the health sciences, the trends differ by institution type. At two-year institutions, the number of faculty in the humanities plateaued after 2011 and then contracted slightly in 2015, while the number of health sciences faculty members at four-year institutions increased 19% over the same time period.
  • Humanities faculty members made up a slightly smaller share of faculty members at four-year colleges than at two-year institutions in 2015 (11.7% as compared to 13.2%; Indicators III-9e and III-9f). The share at four-year institutions trended slowly downward from 2011 (when the humanities’ share reached a record high of 12.1%) to 2015, as the share of faculty in the health sciences field continued to grow and as the share in education shrank by over 10%. In 2014, the share of all faculty at two-year colleges who taught humanities reached its greatest level in the available data (13.24%) and then declined slightly in 2015 (to 13.19%). Over the 2011–2015 time period, health sciences and several other fields saw a modest increase in share, while fine arts’ share increased by a more substantial 8.0%. Education and business experienced a loss of share.
III-9a: Numbers of Postsecondary Faculty in Two- and Four-Year Colleges and Universities Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 1999–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions).

** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

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III-9b: Percentages of Postsecondary Faculty in Two- and Four-Year Colleges and Universities Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 2004–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions). Percentages could be calculated only as far back as 2004, because this was the first year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a complete count of faculty members. Not all fields are depicted in the graph, and thus the percentages do not sum to 100%.
** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

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III-9c: Numbers of Postsecondary Faculty in Two-Year Colleges Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 2002–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions).

** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

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III-9d: Numbers of Postsecondary Faculty in Four-Year Colleges and Universities Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 2002–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions).

** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

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III-9e: Percentages of Postsecondary Faculty in Two-Year Colleges Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 2004–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions). Percentages could be calculated only as far back as 2004, because this was the first year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a complete count of faculty members. Not all fields are depicted in the graph, and thus the percentages do not sum to 100%.
** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

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III-9f: Percentages of Postsecondary Faculty in Four-Year Colleges and Universities Employed in Selected Academic Fields, 2004–2015*

* For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research-oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions). Percentages could be calculated only as far back as 2004, because this was the first year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a complete count of faculty members. Not all fields are depicted in the graph, and thus the percentages do not sum to 100%.
** Includes the agricultural sciences.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, Employment and Wage Estimates (data downloaded from http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm#data).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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Endnotes

[1] Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education show that the number of instructional faculty members (in all academic fields) employed in part-time positions recently surpassed the number of faculty members employed in full-time positions, but these data do not differentiate among the academic fields. (The last study that collected postsecondary faculty data by employment type and field at all colleges and universities was suspended indefinitely by the department after 2004.) See G. Kena, L. Musu-Gillette, J. Robinson, X. Wang, A. Rathbun, J. Zhang, S. Wilkinson-Flicker, A. Barmer, and E. Dunlop Velez. The Condition of Education 2015, NCES 2015-144 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015), 226, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015144.pdf.
[2] Based on fall enrollment data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. These data were accessed and analyzed using NSF’s online data analysis tool, WebCASPAR.
[3] The BLS data are separable by type of institution starting in 2002.