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 June 2018)

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 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 master’s and professional degree holders in other fields.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 37.3% of employed humanities master’s degree recipients worked in teaching positions, nearly twice the share of graduates from all fields combined (an additional 6% of humanities master’s degree holders were in nonteaching positions in education, as compared to 3% of those in all fields combined; Indicator III-7aa). The difference was particularly great in postsecondary teaching, as almost 15% of humanities graduates were employed in the sector, compared to less than 4% of master’s and professional degree recipients generally.
  • Outside of teaching, the largest share of humanities master’s degree recipients was found in management positions (11.1%). The next largest share of humanities master’s degree recipients (10.6%) was employed in arts and media occupations. Among master’s and professional degree holders in general, workers who were not employed as teachers were most likely to be working in management (15.6%) or healthcare (13.6%).
  • The occupational distribution of master’s degree recipients in the humanities differed by gender (Indicator III-7bb). Female degree holders were substantially more likely to hold office and administrative support jobs. Women were also somewhat more likely to be employed as postsecondary teachers. The occupations in which men most outnumbered women were service, community and social services, management, and computer, although the differences were not large.
III-7aa: Occupational Distribution of Terminal Master’s and Professional Degree Holders,* Humanities and All Fields Combined, 2015

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

Source: National Science Foundation, 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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III-7bb: Occupational Distribution of Terminal Humanities Master’s Degree Holders,* by Gender, 2015

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

Source: National Science Foundation, 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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

Endnotes

[1] Association of Departments of English 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/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/historical-archives/retrieving-the-masters-degree-from-the-dustbin-of-history.