In contrast to their high rate of job satisfaction, graduates with a terminal master’s degree in the humanities (i.e., individuals whose highest degree is a master’s in a humanities discipline) have substantially lower median earnings than graduates from most other fields, due in part to the field’s occupational profile. Master’s degree holders in the humanities are some of the most likely—other than education graduates—to work as K–12 teachers (see Occupations of Humanities Master’s Degree Recipients).1


  • 1For an example of the influence of working in precollegiate teaching on earnings, see Shawna De La Rosa, “Report: Teacher Pay Still Lags Peers in Other Professions by 19.2%,” K–12 Dive, 18 September 2020,, accessed 7/20/2022.
Copy link

* 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. A master’s degree recipient’s baccalaureate degree may be in a different field. Men and women are the only two gender categories for which data are available.
** The number of arts graduates in the survey sample was not sufficient to produce reliable earnings estimates for women and men separately.

Source: National Science Foundation, 2019 National Survey of College Graduates. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (


Conducted every two years, the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) gathers detailed education, occupation, and earnings information from a sample of individuals drawn from the larger pool of all those identified via the American Community Survey (ACS) as holders of a baccalaureate degree. The National Science Foundation makes NSCG data available to researchers and the general public via downloadable data files and its online data analysis tool, SESTAT.

Given the size of the NSCG sample, reliable estimates are available only for broad academic fields. For the NSCG disciplinary categories included in each of the field-of-degree categories employed by the Humanities Indicators, see the provided 
crosswalk. This earnings indicator is based on NSCG data, but similar items included in the Humanities Indicators rely on data from the ACS.

Due to marked differences in how the NSCG and ACS classify academic fields, the contents of the field-of-degree categories used for this indicator are not identical to those used for the ACS-based Indicators
III-07a, 07b, and 07c. (For more information on the contents of the categories used for the ACS analysis, see the pertinent crosswalk.)

An even more important difference between this indicator and the ACS-based earnings indicators is that the master’s degree recipients considered here are those whose master’s was in the humanities (irrespective of the field of their undergraduate degree). The ACS does not collect data about the field of advanced degrees. The ACS-based indicators thus describe the earnings of undergraduate humanities majors who went on to pursue an advanced degree, regardless of the field of that degree.

Back to Humanities Indicators
if f.field_survey.value != 1