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Part II. Undergraduate and Graduate Education in the Humanities

Section B. Graduate Education

NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators, http://HumanitiesIndicators.org."
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Indicator II-10 Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-11 Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-12 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-13 Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-14 Humanities Degree Completions: An International Comparison
Indicator II-15 Years to Attainment of a Humanities Doctorate
Indicator II-16 Paying for Graduate School
Indicator II-17 Attrition in Doctorate Programs

See the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares and the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees.

Whereas Section A deals with trends in the character and outcomes of undergraduate education in the humanities, the indicators presented here take up these issues with respect to graduate education. Data are provided on the number of master’s and doctoral degrees awarded in the field over the last several decades, as well as on the progress made in the areas of gender equality and racial/ethnic diversity. As has been the case for undergraduate degrees, the absolute number of graduate degrees awarded in the humanities has rebounded since the mid-1980s, when degree numbers troughed after a roughly 15-year tumble from the historic highs of the early 1970s. At the same time, however, because of a large concurrent increase in the number of advanced degrees awarded in other fields, the percentage of all graduate degrees awarded in humanities disciplines in the early 21st century was much smaller than it was four decades earlier. A graduate degree in humanities was more likely to be awarded to a woman than a man in 2010, but minority students were still underrepresented relative to their proportion of the total U.S. population. When placed in an international context, the United States emerges as a strong producer of humanities-trained postsecondary graduates.

Within the academic humanities, the quality of life for students in doctorate programs and the job prospects of newly minted Ph.D.’s have been areas of concern in the last decade. Given a paucity of data, many observers have had to rely on incomplete or anecdotal evidence in their consideration of these issues. This section brings together such data on doctorate education as do exist in an effort to supply at least partial answers to such questions as:

What are the costs (both temporal and monetary) of obtaining a Ph.D. in the humanities?
What is the “survival rate” of Ph.D. students in the humanities—that is, how many students who begin doctorate programs actually finish?

Although data on the latter subject have traditionally been scarce, three relatively new bodies of data (described in greater detail in Indicator II-17, Attrition in Doctorate Programs) shed much-needed light on the dropout rates in graduate humanities programs and how these compare to the rates of other disciplines.

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Indicator II-10 Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Figures II-10a and II-10b updated 9/6/2013 with degree data for 2011. The trend lines have also been extended from 1966 back to 1948.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares and the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees.

As was the case at the bachelor’s degree level (see Indicator II-1, Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities), the past six decades have seen dramatic growth, marked decline, and then recovery of the academic humanities with respect to the completion of advanced degrees. As Figures II-10a and II-10b illustrate, the numbers of master’s and doctoral degree completions in the “core” humanities disciplines1 increased substantially after World War II, with only a brief dip in the latter half of the 1950s. The number of degrees conferred at both levels increased more than fivefold from 1955 to the early 1970s, as the number of master’s degrees peaked at 21,542 in 1971, while the number of doctorates peaked at 4,708 in 1973. From that point, the number of degrees tumbled. By the mid-1980s the humanities were awarding less than half as many advanced degrees as in the early 1970s.

Figure II-10a, Full Size
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Figure II-10b, Full Size
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The trend reversed yet again in the 1980s. By 1994 the number of master’s degrees had risen back to 68% of its peak in 1971. Following a decline in the late 1990s, master’s degree completions picked up again in 2002 and increased almost every year through 2011 when 17,398 master’s degrees were awarded in the core humanities disciplines. The trend in doctorate completions generally followed the same trajectory as the number of master’s degrees (albeit with a brief lag in time). Humanities doctorates reached the height of their recovery in 1998, when the number reached almost 80% of the 1973 peak. Doctorate completions then declined through 2005 before picking up again in the latter part of the decade. The 2011 total of 3,686 degrees constituted 78% of 1973’s historic high.

The National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) allows for a fuller accounting of all disciplines in the humanities field. When CIP is used to tally humanities degrees conferred since 1987, the levels for master’s degrees are 40–50% higher and those for doctorates are approximately one-third higher. For an explanation of the differences between the two trend lines, see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares.

Graduate humanities programs, like their undergraduate counterparts, experienced a substantial loss of share over the 1970s and 1980s—that is, a reduction in the number of all advanced degrees awarded in the core humanities relative to the number awarded in other fields. While the absolute numbers of advanced degrees conferred in the humanities rose well above the mid-1980s low, even more substantial growth in the numbers of advanced degrees awarded in other fields served to keep the humanities’ share of all master’s and doctoral degrees well below the record levels observed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the mid-1980s through 2011 the core humanities’ share of all master’s and professional degrees ranged from a quarter to slightly over a third of the 1967 peak share. While the 1990s saw fairly steady increases in the humanities’ share of all doctoral degrees, the proportion shrank again during the first half of the next decade. Even with a subsequent uptick in completions, in 2011 the humanities’ share was less than half of its 1973 high and considerably lower than the 10–12% plateau that lasted from 1948 until the mid-1960s.

Since the late 1980s, humanities master’s degrees have constituted less than 5% of all degrees awarded at the master’s and professional degree level, when degrees are classified using CIP (Figure II-10c; see the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees). This is a small proportion relative to the shares awarded by such fields as education and the social service professions, which together awarded 27% of degrees at this level in 2010, and business, which bestowed 22% of such degrees. At the doctoral level, the percentage of degrees awarded in the humanities has been somewhat greater, ranging from 7% to 11% of all degrees over this time period (Figure II-10d).2 In contrast, science degrees represented 43–49% of all doctorates during the same period.

Figure II-10c, Full Size
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Figure II-10d, Full Size
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Note

1 English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English (including linguistics and classics), and philosophy.

2 The appearance of a dramatic shrinkage in 2010 in the share of doctoral degrees awarded in health science is attributable to a recent change made by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the way it asks institutions to classify doctorates (please see the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees for a detailed description of this shift and the steps that the Humanities Indicators has taken to help ensure comparability of the advanced degree counts it provides for different years).

Through 2009, many advanced degrees in the health sciences were classified by awarding institutions not as “first professional” degrees (the way in which NCES requires M.D.’s be classified) but as doctorates. With the elimination by NCES of the generic doctoral degree category in 2010, institutions began classifying such degrees as “professional practice” doctoral degrees, which the Humanities Indicators includes in its master’s degree and professional degree counts. This change in the classification of health service doctorates, in combination with the relatively small number of doctoral degrees completed each year, creates the false impression that the health sciences field experienced a profound loss of doctorate “market share”.

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Indicator II-11 Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (12/12/2012) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares and the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees.

In 2010, at both the master’s and doctoral degree levels, English was the most common area in which advanced degrees in the humanities were completed. Approximately a third of all humanities master’s degrees and 28% of all doctoral degrees were awarded by English departments (Figures II-11a and II-11b; data are provided only for 2010, the most current year for which information is available, because the disciplinary distribution of graduate degrees has changed little since 1987, the first year for which such data are available; see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares).

Figure II-11a, Full Size
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Figure II-11b, Full Size
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At the master’s level, general humanities degrees represented approximately 15% of all humanities degrees, making them—along with history, which granted a similar number of degrees—the second most common type of humanities degree awarded. At the doctoral level, the percentage of general degrees was far smaller. History and languages and literatures other than English awarded larger shares of degrees at the doctoral level than at the master’s level, and these disciplines, together with English, constituted the majority of Ph.D. completions. Another notable difference between the two degree levels was in the percentage of degrees awarded in philosophy. In 2010, such degrees were only 4% of the master’s degrees awarded but constituted 9% of all doctorates.

The smallest share of degrees at the master’s level, less than 0.1%, was awarded in folklore. At the doctoral level, there were no folklore degrees awarded. Among those disciplines in which doctoral degrees were earned, archeology, at 0.2% of all humanities Ph.D. completions, granted the fewest. As was the case at the bachelor’s level (see Indicator II-2, Disciplinary Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees), even though scholarship concerning race and gender has grown considerably over the last several decades,1 only a small share of all advanced humanities degrees, approximately 2%, was awarded in ethnic/gender/cultural studies.



Note

1 Barbara J. Risman, “Gender as Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism,” Gender and Society, vol. 18, no. 4 (August 2004): 429–450; and Patricia H. Collins and John Solomos, “Introduction: Situating Race and Ethnic Studies,” in Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies, ed. Patricia H. Collins and John Solomos (London: Sage, 2010), 1–16.

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Indicator II-12 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/6/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares, the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,, and the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.

The percentage of advanced degrees in the humanities awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups increased from 1995 to 2010 (Figure II-12a; for an explanation of how these percentages were determined, see the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups; for a point of comparison, see the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.) In 2010, the share of humanities master’s degrees awarded to these students was 12.1%, up from 7.9% in the mid-1990s. In 2010, the share of humanities doctorates completed by these students was 10.0%, approximately four percentage points higher than in 1995, but down slightly from 2007’s historic high of 10.7% (Figure II-12b).

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Figure II-12b, Full Size
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At the master’s level, the share of humanities degrees going to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups tended to fall somewhat short of that for all fields during this period, with the gap growing over time. In the case of doctoral degrees, the percentage of humanities awards to these students was consistently close to the percentage in all fields combined.

Figure II-12c depicts the racial/ethnic composition of the master’s and professional degree recipient population for selected fields in 2010. In that year, while the humanities awarded a small percentage of master’s degrees to African American students (4.9%) relative to several other fields, the humanities had one of the higher rates of receipt by Hispanics (6.6%). African Americans completed 4.0% of all doctorates in the humanities, a markedly lower share than in the education and social service fields but well above the rates for the natural sciences, engineering, and fine arts (Figure II-12d). The proportion of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanic students was 5.4%.

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Figure II-12d, Full Size
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In 2010, the humanities field awarded 3.7% of its master’s degrees to students of Asian descent. This was a smaller share than for any field except education and the social service professions. The situation for students of Asian descent was similar at the doctoral level. At 0.7%, the share of humanities master’s degrees completed by American Indian and Native Alaskan students was greater than the proportion in every field other than the social service professions. A similar proportion of humanities doctorates was awarded to these students. No field other than fine and performing arts awarded a greater share of its doctoral degrees to students of native origin.

One of the most striking features of the 2010 data is the share of advanced humanities degree awards to temporary residents. The attraction of U.S. graduate programs in science and engineering to international students has been widely acknowledged. Less well appreciated is the fact that U.S. humanities departments also bestowed a nonnegligible share of their degrees (8.2% at the master’s level, 17.0% at the doctoral) on these international students.

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Indicator II-13 Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/11/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on the Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares and the 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.

Figure II-13a, Full Size
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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.

Figure II-13b, Full Size
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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).


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Indicator II-14 Humanities Degree Completions: An International Comparison
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Updated (8/23/2012) with data for 2009.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gathers a wealth of data on the education-related investments and outcomes of its member nations. In order to arrive at meaningful comparisons among countries that have substantially different educational systems, the OECD uses the International Standard Classification of Education, which was created by the United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the early 1970s to facilitate the efforts of the UN and other organizations to aggregate and present international education statistics. (For a roster of the disciplines that UNESCO includes within the humanities, see Humanities as Defined by the International Standard Classification of Education.)

Figure II-14 compares the percentages of all tertiary degrees (U.S. bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are all considered tertiary degrees) OECD countries awarded in the humanities in 2009. The United States ranked fifth among the 24 OECD countries for which data were available. The U.S. percentage was similar to those of Korea and Hungary, and approximately seven percentage points lower than the humanities degree leader, Germany, which bestows 17.5% of its tertiary degrees in humanities disciplines.

Figure II-14, Full Size
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Indicator II-15 Years to Attainment of a Humanities Doctorate
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Updated (1/18/2012) with data from 2009.

Obtaining a doctoral degree in any field involves a significant investment of time, energy, and monetary resources (both tuition and foregone earnings). But as data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) shows, the road to the humanities Ph.D. has traditionally been an especially long one: from 1979 to 2009, the median number of years from the start of graduate school to a doctorate award was consistently greater in the humanities than in the sciences and engineering (Figure II-15).

Figure II-15, Full Size
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What the humanities do share with most other fields is a retreat from the particularly lengthy completion times recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989, the median number of years to completion of a humanities doctorate was 10.7. However by 2009, after several years of incremental decline, the time to completion was down to 9.5 years.

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Indicator II-16 Paying for Graduate School
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Updated (3/22/2012) with data from 2009 and 2010.

Data from the SED indicate that since 1998, doctoral recipients in the humanities have largely relied on grants (including fellowships), teaching assistantships, or their own resources to subsidize their graduate education, with few supporting themselves through research assistantships or employer subsidies1 (Figure II-16a; data concerning how terminal master’s degree recipients pay for graduate school are not currently collected by any public or private entity). However, while the proportion of humanities doctorate recipients who cited teaching as their primary source of financial support remained relatively constant from 1998 to 2008, the share relying on their own resources steadily declined, and reliance on grants correspondingly increased. In 2006, for the first time, as large a percentage of new Ph.D.’s cited grants as their primary source of support as cited teaching. By 2008, the share of doctorate recipients relying primarily on grants exceeded the percentage whose primary support was teaching. At 38%, the 2008 share of humanities doctorate recipients who had subsidized their graduate education primarily through grants was the largest recorded during the 1998–2010 period.

The years 2009 and 2010 brought slight declines in the percentage of humanities doctorate recipients reporting grants as their primary source of support—and increases of comparable magnitude in the share of doctorate recipients teaching to support themselves. The period 2008–2010 also saw a halt to the precipitous decline in the proportion of doctorate recipients who relied primarily on their own funds to pay for their graduate education.

In 2010, doctorate recipients in the humanities relied more heavily on teaching as their primary source of income than did doctorate recipients in any other field (Figure II-16b). And only life science doctorate recipients were more likely than those in the humanities to report grants as their primary form of support. Humanities doctorate recipients were more likely to draw on their own resources than were doctorate recipients in the natural sciences and engineering, though the proportion of humanities doctorate recipients who cited personal income or savings as their primary source of support was less than half the percentage of doctorate recipients in education who did so.

Figure II-16a, Full Size
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Figure II-16b, Full Size
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While the importance of their own resources decreased relative to other forms of financial support from 2003 through 2010, humanities doctorate recipients’ average debt level rose (after adjusting for inflation) and was one of the highest in the U.S. academy (Figure II-16c). In 2010, new humanities Ph.D.’s reported an average graduate educational debt load of slightly more than $20,000, compared to average indebtedness of approximately $6,300 among doctorate recipients in engineering and the physical sciences. The level of humanities doctorate recipient indebtedness in 2010 represents a 51% increase over the 2003 figure. Humanities indebtedness grew much less than that among education Ph.D.’s (85%), but the increase was far greater than that experienced by doctorate recipients in the physical sciences (2%), engineering (6%), or life sciences (25%).

The average indebtedness figure for the humanities masks a “feast or famine” situation with respect to the ability of doctorate recipients to secure graduate funding. As Figure II-16d reveals, more than half of all humanities doctorate recipients awarded degrees in 2010 emerged from their graduate programs with no educational debt. But approximately 26% of humanities doctorate recipients incurred more than $30,000 in debt, and almost 18% carried debt loads in excess of $50,000.

Figure II-16c, Full Size
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Figure II-16d, Full Size
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Note

1 Students’ subsidization—via teaching and research assistantships, employer subsidies, and their own financial resources—of the portion of their education not covered by grants from their universities or other philanthropic organizations is a substantial and largely unacknowledged form of funding for the humanities enterprise in the contemporary United States. For other indicators dealing with the character and extent of funding for humanities education and other activities, see Part IV of the Humanities Indicators, Humanities Funding and Research.

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Indicator II-17 Attrition in Doctorate Programs
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Updated (3/25/2011)

Attrition in humanities doctorate programs is a topic of considerable interest to higher education researchers and administrators, but data that could be used to systematically assess the extent of attrition have been scarce. Information compiled by individual universities and programs suggests that attrition rates are substantial, but just how many people begin work toward a humanities Ph.D. and then drop out—and, more important, why they drop out—are significant questions that have long gone unanswered.

Fortunately, three recent studies enhance our understanding of graduate attrition. Findings from the first of these, the Council of Graduate Schools' Ph.D. Completion Project, were published in the autumn of 2007. Supported by funding from the Ford Foundation and Pfizer, Inc., the project involved 29 U.S. and Canadian research universities in collecting data on doctorate completion rates, as well as on interventions designed to raise these rates.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–funded Graduate Education Initiative, another new source of data on attrition, involved both the implementation of a set of interventions designed to improve graduate education in 54 humanities departments in ten major universities and an evaluation of the ten-year project’s outcomes. The findings of the evaluation are described in Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities (Princeton University Press, 2009).

The attrition data presented by the Humanities Indicators (HI) are from a third recent study, a comprehensive assessment of U.S. research-doctorate programs administered by the National Research Council (NRC) and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and participating universities. The assessment involved the collection of a variety of data on doctorate programs, including Ph.D. completion rates. These data were then used to develop multidimensional ratings of programs at approximately 200 institutions of higher learning (see http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/Resdoc/index.htm for more information about the project). While each of the three studies mentioned here is a source of important insight regarding attrition in humanities doctorate programs, the HI has used data from the NRC assessment because this study included the largest number of programs in the greatest variety of humanities disciplines.

Doctorate completion was defined by the NRC as obtaining a degree within eight years of entering a Ph.D. program for students of the humanities, and within six years for students in other fields. A completion rate—essentially the proportion of all students entering a doctorate program who completed their Ph.D.’s within the specified number of years—was computed for every research doctorate program at the participating institutions.1 Students who finished their doctorates but not in the specified number of years were not counted as completers. The completion rates presented here are thus conservative measures of doctorate completion. The figures are also for a group of doctorate programs in a given field (or discipline), not the student population in that field. The determination of the share of all doctoral students in a given field who ultimately obtain their Ph.D.’s will require detailed analysis of individual programs’ responses to the NRC survey.

Figure II-17a depicts the interquartile range (IQR) for doctorate program completion rates in the humanities and several other fields. The IQR is widely used as a means of describing the “typical” or “usual” values exhibited by a group of persons or objects and involves excluding the most extreme values of a particular variable (in this case, doctorate program completion rate). Quartiles are statistics that divide the observations in a batch of numeric data into several groups, each of which contains 25% of the data. The lower, middle, and upper quartiles are computed by ordering the values for a particular variable from smallest to largest and then finding the values below which fall 25%, 50%, and 75% of the data. The lower quartile and the upper quartile are the two values that define the interquartile range. The middle quartile is also known as the median.

Figure II-17a, Full Size
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The doctorate program assessment data reveal that the completion rate in the humanities is similar to that in the mathematical and physical sciences field. In both fields, the middle half of the programs graduated from slightly more than a quarter up to 55% of their students within the specified number of years (i.e., eight years for students of the humanities, six years for science students). The median program completion rate for both fields was 42%. The engineering and biological and health science fields had the highest median completion rates, 50%. The field with the lowest median completion rate, 35%, was the behavioral and social sciences. This field also had a somewhat greater range of “typical” completion rates (IQR) than others.

Median completion rates among the humanities disciplines showed considerable variation (Figure II-17b). With 56% of their students completing their Ph.D.’s within eight years, theater and performance studies programs had the highest median completion rate. Languages, societies, and cultures programs had a median completion rate of 33%, the lowest recorded within the humanities field. Programs in two of the most populous disciplines, history and English language and literature, had rates of 42% and 46%. The span of IQRs among the disciplines was similarly broad. While the completion rates of German programs were clustered relatively tightly around the median (for an IQR of 20, the lowest of all the disciplines), typical completion rates for French programs, those with the highest IQR, ranged from 17% to 64%.

Figure II-17b, Full Size

Note

1 Doctorate programs at participating institutions were asked by the NRC to report the number of “graduate students who entered in different cohorts from 1996–1997 to 2005–2006 and the number in each cohort who completed in 3 years or less, in their 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th years, and in 10 or more years. To compute the completion percentage, the number of doctoral students for a given entering cohort who completed their doctorate in 3 years or less and in their 4th, 5th, 6th years were totaled and the total was divided by the entering students in that cohort. This computation was made for each cohort that entered from 1996–1997 to 1998–1999 for the humanities and 1996–1997 to 2000–2001 for the other fields. Cohorts beyond these years were not considered, since the students could complete in a year that was after the final year 2005–2006 for which data were collected. To compute the average completion percentage, an average was taken over 3 cohorts for the humanities and over 5 cohorts for other fields” (National Research Council, Committee to Assess Research-Doctorate Programs, “A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Data Table in Excel (2010),” http://www.nap.edu/rdp/, under “Guide” tab in Excel workbook).

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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 degree.”

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.)
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
Law (LL.B. or J.D.)
Medicine (M.D.)
Optometry (O.D.)
Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
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.)
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.

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;
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.
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).

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 the 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 analysis tool WebCASPAR.

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 1987 onward.1 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).


Note

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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Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups

For each academic discipline or field, the share of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was calculated by dividing the number of degrees completed by students identified by their institutions as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native by the total number of degree completions in that field. Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, (2) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethnicity,”* and (3) international students—that is, temporary residents who were in the United States for the express purpose of attending school and who were likely to return to their home countries upon graduation (significant numbers of these individuals may be of African or Hispanic background, but the National Center for Education Statistics , the compiler of these data, does not request that institutions of higher learning collect racial/ethnicity data for such students).


* According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the compiler of these data, a student is assigned to this category only if he or she does not select a racial/ethnic designation and his or her educational institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the NCES-defined racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process. Over time the percentage of students categorized as “Other/Unknown” has grown, thereby reducing the ability of postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and the general public to reliably track the racial/ethnic diversity of degree recipients.

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Humanities as Defined by the International Standard Classification of Education

Humanities

Religion and theology;
Foreign languages and cultures: living or ‘dead’ languages and their literatures, area studies;
Native languages: current or vernacular language and its literature;
Other humanities: interpretation and translation, linguistics, comparative literature, history, archaeology, philosophy, ethics.


Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1997 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2006), 42, http://www.uis.unesco.org/TEMPLATE/pdf/isced/ISCED_A.pdf.

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Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population (18–30 Years Old)

Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Humanities Indicators has calculated the following estimates of the share of the total national young adult population represented by each of the categories employed by the National Center for Education Statistics for the purpose of reporting the percentages of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities* (estimates are for April 2010):

African American, Non-Hispanic
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Native American or Alaska Native
13.7%
5.6%
17.7%
0.8%

Source: Data drawn from U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “US-EST00INT-ALLDATA: Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” (data file,September 2011), downloadable under the heading “Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” at http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/national/nat2010.html.

* The racial/ethnic categorization scheme employed for the purposes of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which is the basis of the Humanities Indicators items dealing with the distribution of degree completions among racial/ethnic groups, and the system used by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Division, which is the source of the information provided in this note, differ in important ways. Whereas IPEDS has traditionally used a “one-question” approach that requires institutions to use mutually exclusive reporting categories, one of which is “Hispanic,” the Census Bureau employs a “two-question” format that inquires separately about race and Hispanic origin. In further contrast to IPEDS, the Census Bureau permits respondents to select more than one race to describe themselves.

In view of these differences the Humanities Indicators could not develop size estimates for racial/ethnic groups that provide strictly comparable points of reference for the percentages supplied as part of Indicators II-4 and II-12. The following table indicates which Census-defined group(s) were used as the basis for the estimates provided in this note.

IPEDS-Defined
“African American, Non-Hispanic”
“Asian or Pacific Islander”

“Hispanic”
“Native American or Alaska Native”

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Census-Defined
“Not Hispanic, Black alone”
“Not Hispanic, Asian alone” and
“Not Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone”
“Hispanic, White alone”
“Not Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native alone”

Beginning with the data collection for academic year 2011–2012, IPEDS required that institutions report information on degree completers’ race and ethnicity in a way similar to the Census Bureau and most other data collections sponsored by federal government agencies. See http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/news_room/ana_Changes_to_10_25_2007_169.asp for details.

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