Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated March 2016)

From 1987 to 2014, the nation’s colleges and universities conferred the largest share of advanced degrees in the humanities on students of English language and literature. Over these years the discipline awarded more than twice as many master’s degrees as the next closest discipline (history) and approximately 50% more degrees at the doctoral level.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2014, slightly more than one-third of all humanities master’s degrees and slightly more than a quarter of all humanities doctoral degrees were awarded by English departments, larger shares than for any other humanities discipline (Indicators II-11a and II-11b).
  • Even when combined, the second and third largest disciplines conferring humanities master’s degrees in 2014—history and general humanities/liberal studies (which awarded approximately 15% and 12%)—conferred a smaller share of humanities master’s degrees than English at that level. The remaining disciplines each awarded less than 10% of the master’s degrees in the field.
  • In 2014, history, languages and literatures other than English (LOTE), and philosophy awarded larger shares of humanities degrees at the doctoral level than at the master’s level (in history, 20% at the doctoral level, as compared to 15% at the master’s level; in languages and LOTE, 15% as compared to 10%; and in philosophy, 9% as compared to 4%). Together with English, these disciplines constituted almost 70% of humanities doctoral completions in 2014.
  • From 2000 to 2014, the change in the shares of humanities master’s degrees conferred in each of the field’s constituent disciplines was fairly limited, with only the share of master’s degrees in general studies/liberal arts decreasing by more than 1 percent (Indicator II-11c; for information on the disciplines included under the heading “Other,” please see the supporting table that accompanies the indicator).
  • In the case of doctoral degrees, the shares of all humanities degrees awarded in the two largest disciplines (as measured by degree completions), English and history, shrank from 2000 to 2014, while the majority of smaller disciplines awarded larger shares of degrees in 2014 than they did at the turn of the century (Indicator II-11d).
II-11a: Distribution of Humanities Master’s Degree Completions among Disciplines, 2014*
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.
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II-11b: Distribution of Humanities Doctoral Degree Completions among Disciplines, 2014*

* Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-11c: Percentage of Humanities Master’s Degrees Awarded by Each Discipline, 1987–2014*

* Values for the disciplines included in the “Other” category are provided in Supporting Table II-11c.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-11d: Percentage of Humanities Doctoral Degrees Awarded by Each Discipline, 1987–2014*

* Values for the disciplines included in the “Other” category are provided in Supporting Table II-11d.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.

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