Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
Advanced Degrees in the Humanities

As was the case at the bachelor’s degree level, the past six decades have seen dramatic growth, marked decline, and then recovery in the completion of advanced degrees in the humanities.

Findings and Trends

  • The numbers of master’s (Indicator II-10a) and doctoral degree (Indicator II-10b) completions in the “core” humanities disciplines—English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English (including linguistics and classics), and philosophy—increased substantially after World War II, with only a brief dip in the 1950s.[1]
  • The number of degrees conferred at both the master’s and doctoral levels in the humanities increased more than fivefold from 1955 to the early 1970s. The number of master’s degrees peaked at 21,542 in 1971, while the number of doctorates peaked at 4,708 in 1973.
  • After 1973, the number of advanced degrees conferred in the humanities tumbled. By the mid-to-late 1980s humanities programs were awarding less than half the number of advanced degrees they had conferred in the early 1970s.
  • The declines in advanced-level humanities degrees reversed in the late 1980s. By 1994 the number of master’s degrees had risen to 68% of the 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.
  • When counted using the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), which allows for the identification of a fuller range of humanities degrees (including degrees in area and gender studies, nonvocational religious studies, and some art studies; see Note on the Data Used to Calculate Undergraduate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares for details), the numbers of master’s degrees conferred since 1987 are 40–50% higher and those for doctorates are approximately one-third higher than when only degrees in “core” humanities disciplines are counted.
II-10a: Master’s Degree Completions in the Humanities, 1948–2011

* English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English (including linguistics and classics), and philosophy. “CIP” refers to the Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares for an explanation of the differences between the two sets of degree counts.

Source: Office of Education/U.S. Department of Education, “Survey of Earned Degrees,” “Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS),” and “Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS).” HEGIS and IPEDS data were accessed and analyzed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR .

About this DataRelated Indicators
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II-10b: Doctoral Degree Completions in the Humanities, 1948–2011

* English language and literature, history, languages and literatures other than English (including linguistics and classics), and philosophy. "CIP" refers to the Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate Humanities Degree Counts and Shares for an explanation of the differences between the two sets of degree counts.

Source: Office of Education/U.S. Department of Education, “Survey of Earned Degrees,” “Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS),” and “Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS).” HEGIS and IPEDS data were accessed and analyzed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/indII-10b.xls../cmsData/ppt/indII-10b.ppt../cmsData/pdf/indII-10b.pdf

Endnotes

[1] The Humanities Indicators takes the “core disciplines” as its focus because together they constitute the majority of humanities degrees and also because they are the only disciplines for which comparable data are available that allow for the construction of a long-term trend.