Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Career Paths of Graduates with Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
 
Occupations of Master’s Degree Recipients in the Humanities
(Updated October 2016)

Since the mid-2000s, the large disciplinary societies in the humanities have been discussing the purpose of the master’s degree, even as the field’s share of all master’s and professional degrees fell to historic lows. A committee of the Modern Language Association recently noted “a gap between students’ aspirations and employment outcomes on the one hand and M.A. programs’ stated goals and curricular requirements on the other.”[1] To provide an empirical grounding for this important discussion, the Humanities Indicators examines the occupational distribution of humanities master’s degree recipients and how it compares to that of students with master’s or professional degrees in other fields.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2013, 43.5% of employed humanities master’s degree recipients were employed in teaching positions, nearly twice the share of graduates from all fields (22.2%; Indicator III-7aa). The difference was particularly wide in postsecondary teaching, as 22.5% of humanities graduates were employed in the sector compared to less than 4% of master’s and professional degree recipients from all fields combined.
  • For all fields combined, the largest shares of master’s and professional degree recipients employed in fields other than education were found in healthcare (13.0%) or management (14.6%) positions. Outside of the teaching occupations, the largest share of humanities master’s degree recipients was found in management positions (9.6%). Another 9.1% of humanities master’s degree recipients were employed in arts and media occupations.
  • Within the humanities, the occupational distribution of master’s degree recipients differed somewhat by gender (Indicator III-7bb). Female degree holders were more likely to be employed as precollegiate teachers and in arts, entertainment, and media occupations than their male counterparts. Men were slightly more likely to be employed in postsecondary teaching and other education-related jobs (generally, administrative posts), as well as community and social service jobs, than their female counterparts. Men and women were almost equally likely to hold management and professional positions outside of academia.
III-7aa: Occupations of Terminal Master’s and Professional Degree Holders,* Humanities and All Fields Combined, 2013

* Employed at any time in the previous five years.
** See the provided crosswalk for information regarding the occupations included in this category.

Source: Original analysis by the Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org) of data from National Science Foundation, National Survey of College Graduates, 2013.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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III-7bb: Occupations of Terminal Humanities Master’s Degree Holders,* by Gender, 2013

* Employed at any time in the previous five years.
** See the provided crosswalk for information regarding the occupations included in this category.

Source: Original analysis by the Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org) of data from National Science Foundation, National Survey of College Graduates, 2013.

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/table_III-7bb.xls../cmsData/ppt/III-7bb.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-7bb.pdf

Endnotes

[1] ADE Ad Hoc Committee on the Master’s Degree, Rethinking the Master’s Degree in English for a New Century (New York: Modern Language Association, 2011), https://www.mla.org/content/download/25406/1164106/2011adhocrpt.pdf. See also Philip M. Katz, Retrieving the Master’s Degree from the Dustbin of History (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2006), https://www.historians.org/Documents/About%20AHA%20and%20Membership/Dustbin.pdf.