Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated August 2017)

From 1987 to 2015, 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 English awarded more than twice as many master’s degrees as the next closest discipline and at least a third more degrees at the doctoral level.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 30% of all humanities master’s degrees and almost 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 2015—the humanities-oriented areas of communication and history (which awarded 14% and 12%)—conferred a smaller share of humanities master’s degrees than English. The remaining disciplines each awarded less than 10% of the master’s degrees in the field.
  • In 2015, 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, 17% at the doctoral level, as compared to 12% at the master’s level; in LOTE, 13% as compared to 8%; and in philosophy, 9% as compared to 4%). In contrast, among the largest disciplines (as measured by degree completions), communication conferred a smaller share of doctoral degrees than master’s degrees (9% as compared to 14%).
  • From 2000 to 2015, change in the shares of humanities master’s degrees conferred in each of the field’s constituent disciplines was modest (Indicator II-11c; for information on the disciplines included under the heading “Other,” please see the supporting table that accompanies the indicator). The largest changes in share occurred among recipients of general studies/liberal arts degrees (which shrank by more than five percentage points), and nonprofessional communication degrees (which increased almost four percentage points).
  • In the case of doctoral degrees, the shares of all humanities degrees awarded in the two largest disciplines, English and history, shrank from 2000 to 2015, while the majority of smaller disciplines awarded larger shares of degrees in 2015 than they did at the turn of the century (Indicator II-11d). As was true at the master’s degree level, communication and the study of the arts experienced the largest increases.
II-11a: Distribution of Humanities Master’s Degree Completions among Disciplines, 2015*

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

** Values for the disciplines included in this category are provided in Supporting Table II-11a.

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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-11b: Distribution of Humanities Doctoral Degree Completions among Disciplines, 2015*

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

** Values for the disciplines included in this category are provided in Supporting Table II-11b.

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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-11c: Percentage of Humanities Master’s Degrees Awarded by Each Discipline, 1987–2015*

* Values for the disciplines included in this 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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-11d: Percentage of Humanities Doctoral Degrees Awarded by Each Discipline, 1987–2015*

* Values for the disciplines included in this 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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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