Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees as a Second Major
- In 2018, 23,166 bachelor’s degree recipients at U.S. colleges and universities completed a “second major” in the humanities (i.e., a degree in a humanities discipline earned at the same time as a degree in a nonhumanities field or a different humanities discipline; Indicator II-04a). The number of students graduating with a second major in the humanities peaked at 25,678 in 2012. After falling for several subsequent years, the number of humanities second majors increased in both 2017 and 2018.
- Though the contraction from 2012 to 2018 was less acute than for humanities degrees awarded as first majors, the humanities’ share of all second degrees awarded shrank 14%, reaching the lowest level on record in 2018 (22.9% of all second majors).
- From 2001 to 2015, humanities was the most popular field in which to earn a second major; however, in subsequent years the annual number of second majors awarded in the humanities field fell below the behavioral and social sciences and drew close to business and management (Indicator II-04b). In 2018, 23,814 second majors were awarded in behavioral/social sciences and 22,538 in business/management.
- While the total number of second degrees increased 5% from 2012 to 2018, the number earned in the humanities fell 10%. In contrast, the number completed in engineering more than doubled, and the number in health and medical sciences rose 68%. The number of second majors earned in the natural sciences increased by 27%.
- From 2001 to 2018, languages and literatures other than English (LOTE) was the most popular discipline for students earning second majors in humanities, by a substantial margin. Over 6,700 students completed LOTE degrees in 2018 (29.3% of all second degrees earned in a humanities discipline; Indicator II-04c). The next most popular disciplines for second majors were English and history, which conferred 3,241 (14.0%) and 2,613 (11.3%) degrees respectively.
- The discipline of history had the most substantial decline in second degrees after 2012 (the highwater mark for second degree conferrals in the humanities), falling 24% by 2018. A sizable drop-off also occurred in English second degrees, with the number decreasing 19% over the same time period. In contrast, cultural, ethnic, and gender studies saw a considerable uptick in second degree completions (16%).
A “second major” degree in a humanities discipline is one earned at the same time as another degree in a nonhumanities field or a different humanities discipline. Data on “second majors” are reported by the institution (rather than the student), and thus no meaning can be inferred from these degrees being designated as second (rather than first) majors.
For an inventory of the specific degree programs that together constitute the humanities as the field is conceptualized by the Humanities Indicators, see the Degree Program Code Catalog.