Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Career Paths of Graduates with Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
 
Earnings of Humanities Master’s Degree Recipients
(Updated June 2018)

Master’s degree recipients in the humanities have substantially lower median earnings than graduates with master’s degrees in other major academic fields. Contributing to the comparatively low salaries for master’s degree recipients in the humanities (and education) is the relatively large share working as teachers, who have traditionally been paid less than other workers of similar educational attainment.[1]

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, college graduates with a terminal master’s degree in the humanities had one of the lowest median earnings levels of any major academic field, $58,000 (for full-time workers; Indicator III-8aa). This was above the median earnings for master’s degree recipients in education and the arts ($56,000 and $52,000 respectively), but $17,000 below the median for all recipients of terminal master’s degrees. Graduates with a degree in business had the highest median earnings, $105,000.
  • Male recipients of humanities master’s degrees had median earnings of $63,000, which is $8,000 greater than their female counterparts but lower than the median earnings for men in every other field. The 12.7% gender gap in earnings among humanities degree recipients was the narrowest found in any major academic field (both in dollars and as a percentage) and was more than 20 percentage points smaller than for all fields combined (Indicator III-8bb).[2] The widest earnings gender gap (41.4%) was found among recipients of arts degrees.
III-8aa: Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with a Terminal Master’s Degree, by Gender and Field of Degree, 2015*

* Full-time workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks during the previous 12 months. Earnings estimates have been rounded to the nearest $1,000. This analysis excludes holders of the J.D. and other professional degrees.

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).

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III-8bb: Earnings Gender Gap among Full-Time Workers with a Terminal Master’s Degree, by Field of Degree, 2015*

* The earnings gender 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 during the previous 12 months. This analysis excludes holders of the J.D. and other professional degrees.

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).

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Endnotes

[1] Herron, Jana, “Teacher Pay Hits Record—but Not a Good One,” Fiscal Times, 15 August 2016, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/08/15/Teacher-Pay-Hits-Record-Not-Good-One (accessed 9/19/2016).
[2] The earnings gender gap is the difference between male and female median earnings expressed as a percentage of male median earnings.