Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Career Paths of Graduates with Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
 
Earnings of Humanities Ph.D.’s
(Updated June 2018)

Recipients of doctoral degrees in the humanities have the lowest median earnings of any field, due in part to the large share of Ph.D.’s in the field who are employed as postsecondary faculty, an occupation in which average humanities salaries are relatively low.[1] The following analysis provides a snapshot of the differences in earnings among the fields and between men and women in each field.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, college graduates with a Ph.D. in the humanities had the lowest median earnings of graduates with doctorates in any of the major academic fields (Indicator III-8a; due to small sample size, Ph.D.’s in the arts are not included). While Ph.D.’s in the humanities reported median earnings of $77,000, the median income for all doctoral degree recipients was $99,000. Doctoral degree recipients in engineering had the highest median earnings, $125,000.
  • Male recipients of humanities doctoral degrees had median earnings of $85,000, which is $23,000 above their female counterparts, but both men and women with humanities doctorates had the lowest median earnings for doctoral recipients of their gender in any field.
  • The 27% gender gap in earnings among humanities Ph.D.’s was one of the largest among all the fields studied, second only to Ph.D. recipients in life sciences, who had a 30.5% gap. When all fields are considered together, the gap was 30% (Indicator III-8b).
  • The range of earnings of humanities Ph.D.’s was relatively narrow in 2015, with a gap of less than $50,000 between the 25th and 75th percentiles (workers at the 25th percentile made 49.5% of what their counterparts at the 75th percentile did; Indictor III-8c). In comparison, among Ph.D.’s from all fields, the difference in earnings between the quartiles was $86,000 (with lower-earning workers making 41.1% of what their higher-earning counterparts did). Nevertheless, the earnings of the top 25% of humanities Ph.D.’s was greater than those of half of doctoral degree recipients from education, business, and the health/medical sciences.
III-8a: Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with a Doctoral 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. The analysis excludes holders of the D.D.S., D.V.M., M.D., and other non-research 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-8b: Earnings Gender Gap among Full-Time Workers with a Doctoral 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. The analysis excludes holders of the D.D.S., D.V.M., M.D., and other non-research 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-8c: Range of Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with a Doctoral Degree, by 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. The analysis excludes holders of the D.D.S., D.V.M., M.D., and other non-research 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] According to the annual faculty salary survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources for the 2014–2015 academic year, faculty members in history, philosophy, and religious studies, as well as English and languages and literatures other than English, were all in the bottom half of the distribution of median salaries at each rank. For instance, assistant professors in all disciplines combined had a median salary of $67,881, while the median salary for faculty in the larger humanities disciplines was less than $60,000. At the full professor level, the median salary was $100,087 for faculty in all disciplines combined, compared to less than $93,000 for faculty members in the humanities disciplines. Faculty salaries by discipline are available in the report “Median Salaries of Tenured and Tenure-Track Professors at 4-Year Colleges, 2014–15,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 16, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Median-Salaries-of-Tenured-and/228435/ (accessed 9/21/2016).