Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Earnings & Occupations of Humanities Majors
 
Occupations of College Humanities Majors Who Earned an Advanced Degree
(Updated February 2018)

While debate about the economic value of college degrees tends to refer to the undifferentiated category of “humanities majors,” it is important to distinguish between holders of terminal bachelor’s degrees and holders of bachelor’s degrees who go on to obtain an advanced degree, given significant differences in their workforce outcomes. The indicators below examine the types of jobs held by humanities majors with advanced degrees, which may or may not be in the humanities (available data do not indicate the field of the postbaccalaureate degree; see the relevant items on recipients of master’s and doctoral degrees for the occupations of those with advanced degrees in particular fields). One key finding is that workers who started their studies in the humanities were more evenly distributed across occupational categories than advanced degree holders (ADHs) who majored in several other fields, suggesting that students with a humanities education are equipped to pursue a range of vocations.[1]

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 85% of ADHs who majored in the humanities as undergraduates and who had worked during the previous five years were employed in the broad category of “management, professional, and related occupations” (Indicator III-3c).[2] Among these occupations, education-related activities were the most prevalent, with 29% of all humanities ADHs working in such jobs—more than twice the percentage (12%) of humanities terminal bachelor’s degree holders (TBHs) who did so. Approximately 14% of humanities ADHs worked in precollegiate teaching and 10% in postsecondary teaching.
  • Legal occupations were the second-most-common occupation among working ADHs who had majored in the humanities, with approximately 13% working in such jobs.[3]
  • Approximately one in ten working humanities majors with advanced degrees were found in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics occupations, fields that have been a particular focus of policymakers in recent years. Such workers include the 5.8% of humanities ADHs employed in the healthcare sector, the 2.9% working in science and engineering occupations, and the 2.2% with computer-related employment.
  • The share of working humanities majors with advanced degrees employed in management, professional, and related fields was almost 30 percentage points larger than among humanities TBHs. The difference is reflected in the considerably lower percentages of humanities ADHs employed in each of the office, sales, and service categories.
  • Among the workers who had majored in one of the fields examined here, ADHs with undergraduate degrees in the humanities and the social sciences were the most evenly distributed across the occupational sectors (Indicator III-3d).
  • ADHs who had majored in either the humanities or the behavioral or social sciences were at least twice as likely as those with any other type of undergraduate major to have jobs in the legal sector.
  • Approximately 34% of humanities ADHs worked in “applied humanities” occupations that allow for direct application of knowledge and skills cultivated in the field. This occupational category encompasses education-related jobs (although the data do not indicate whether these humanities ADHs were employed teaching humanities subjects or administering programs with a humanities orientation); museum and library professions; writers; news analysts, reporters, and correspondents; editors (text); and tour and travel guides.[4]
III-3c: Occupational Distribution of Advanced Degree Holders with an Undergraduate Degree in the Humanities,* 2015

* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours. Advanced degree may be in any field.
** Includes educational administrators, teaching assistants, and workers categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as “other teachers and instructors.”
† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/suppIII-3c.xlsx../cmsData/ppt/III-3c_1.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-3c_1.pdf
III-3d: Occupational Distribution of Advanced Degree Holders,* by Undergraduate Major, 2015

* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours. Advanced degree may be in any field.]
** Includes educational administrators, teaching assistants, and workers categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as “other teachers and instructors.”
† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/suppIII-3d.xlsx../cmsData/ppt/III-3d.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-3d.pdf

Endnotes

[1] In 2015, 40.6% of humanities majors possessed at least one advanced degree (see Supplemental Table III-4). For information regarding the occupational distribution of all humanities majors, irrespective of subsequent education, see Supplemental Table III-3.
[2] Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours.
[3] For an estimate of the share of attorneys who have undergraduate degrees in the humanities, see Indicator III-5gg: Percentage and Number of Workers with a Humanities Bachelor’s Degree, by Occupation, 2015
[4] ADHs in “applied humanities” occupations include educators (29.0% of all humanities ADHs); museum and library professionals (2.3%); writers (1.5%); editors (1.0%); and news analysts, reporters, and correspondents (0.3%).