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

The Humanities Indicators uses data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to document the earnings of workers with bachelor’s degrees. This item focuses on the earnings of humanities majors who go on to obtain an advanced degree. (The advanced degree can be in any field, as the ACS provides field-of-degree information only for the undergraduate degree. Other indicators examine the earnings of humanities majors with a terminal bachelor’s degree.)

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 41% of humanities majors possessed at least one advanced degree (see Supplemental Table III-4). Median annual full-time earnings for humanities majors holding an advanced degree in any field were $72,000 (Indicator III-4e).[1]
  • Male humanities advanced degree holders (ADHs) reported annual median earnings of $83,000, as compared to $65,000 among their female counterparts.
  • The median earnings for male ADHs who had majored in the humanities were most similar to those of behavioral and social science majors who obtained an advanced degree, though these workers’ median earnings were still $13,000 higher. The median earnings of male humanities ADHs were 75% of those of male engineering and life sciences ADHs, the highest-earning groups, and 86% of the median earnings of all male ADHs.
  • Female humanities ADHs made approximately 72% of what female engineering ADHs did (engineering majors were the top earners among women), but virtually the same as all female ADHs considered together. As was true for men, the median earnings of female ADHs with humanities degrees were most similar—equal, in fact—to those of female behavioral and social science majors who later earned advanced degrees.
  • The gender earnings gap for humanities ADHs, 22%, was considerably smaller than the 31% gap found among ADHs generally (Indicator III-4f). The gap was smaller than in the sciences and business but higher than in engineering, education, and the arts. (In keeping with the practice of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the gap was calculated by dividing the difference between men’s and women’s median earnings by men’s median earnings.)
  • Looking at both genders together, the boost in median earnings for humanities majors who obtained an advanced degree was 38.5% (Indicator III-4g). (The “boost” is calculated as a proportion of terminal bachelor degree holders’ earnings. For the dollar amounts into which these proportions translate, see the supporting table associated with this indicator.) The boost for humanities majors was somewhat greater for men (38%) than for women (35%). For both male and female humanities ADHs, the boost was close in magnitude to that for all fields combined, though that masks wide variation among the fields. The earnings boost experienced by women was most comparable to ADHs in education and the health and medical sciences. For male humanities ADHs, the fields with the most comparable boost were business and education. For each of the genders the humanities’ boost was considerably lower than that for life sciences majors, the group of ADHs that realized the greatest monetary boost, in percentage terms, from their advanced degrees (83% for men; 60% for women).
  • Among humanities majors who pursued an advanced degree, those who earned their undergraduate degrees in history had the highest median wages, $80,000 (Indicator III-4h). Those ADHs who had majored in art history as undergraduates earned the least, with median wages of $65,000.
  • Among humanities majors, those with undergraduate degrees in undergraduate area, ethnic, and civilization studies enjoyed the greatest boost in median earnings (56%) from the attainment of an advanced degree (Indicator III-4i). Majors in communication who pursued advanced training experienced the smallest earnings boost, though these workers’ median earnings were still 27% higher than those who held terminal bachelor’s degrees in the discipline. (For the dollar amounts into which these percentages translate, see the supporting table associated with this indicator.)
III-4e: Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with an Advanced Degree, by Gender for Selected Fields of Undergraduate Degree, 2015*

* Full-time workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks in the previous 12 months. Advanced degree may be in any field. Fields are arranged in descending order of earnings for both genders.

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

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III-4f: Gender Earnings Gap among Full-Time Workers with an Advanced Degree, by Field of Undergraduate Degree, 2015*

* The earnings gap is the difference between male and female median annual earnings expressed as a percentage of male median earnings. Full-time workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks in the previous 12 months. Advanced degree may be in any field.

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

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III-4g: Boost in Median Annual Earnings Associated with Obtaining an Advanced Degree, by Gender and Field of Undergraduate Degree, 2015*

* For full-time workers; that is, those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks in the previous 12 months. Advanced degree may be in any field. Fields are arranged in descending order of boost for both genders. The “boost” is calculated as a proportion of terminal bachelor degree holders’ earnings. For the dollar amounts into which these proportions translate, see the supporting table associated with this indicator.

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

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III-4h: Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with an Advanced Degree, by Discipline of Undergraduate Humanities Degree, 2015*

* Full-time workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks in the previous 12 months. Advanced degree may be in any field. The size of the survey sample was insufficient to yield an estimate of adequate precision for each gender.
** Languages other than English.

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

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III-4i: Boost in Median Earnings Associated with Obtaining an Advanced Degree, by Discipline of Undergraduate Humanities Degree, 2015*

* For full-time workers; that is, those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks in the previous 12 months. Advanced degree may be in any field. The “boost” is calculated as a proportion of terminal bachelor degree holders’ earnings. For the dollar amounts into which these proportions translate, see the supporting table associated with this indicator. The size of the survey sample was insufficient to yield an estimate of adequate precision for each gender.
** Languages other than English.

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

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Endnotes

[1] All earnings estimates are for the 12 months preceding response to the ACS.Indicator III-4e also presents separate earnings estimates for men and women. To present only the median for all workers for each field would be misleading, because gender is a key determinant of wages, and academic fields differ with respect to the gender composition of their degree-holder populations.While Indicator III-4e supplies the median earnings level of majors in different academic fields, the supporting table associated with the indicator provides additional information intended to capture the range of these workers’ earnings. The range of “typical” or “usual” values exhibited by a population of persons or objects is described through the use of a statistic referred to as the interquartile range, which ignores the most extreme values of a sample distribution. Quartiles are statistics that divide the observations of a numeric sample 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 (earnings, in this case) from smallest to largest and then finding the values below which fall 25%, 50%, and 75% of the data. The middle quartile is also known as the median. The lower quartile and the upper quartile define the interquartile range.