Earnings of Humanities Master’s Degree Recipients
- Looking across the major academic fields, in 2019 the humanities had one of the lowest median annual earnings levels for terminal master’s degree holders, $60,000 (for full-time workers; Indicator III-23a). This was above the median earnings for master’s degree recipients in the arts ($54,000), but $22,000 below the median for terminal master’s degrees holders generally (not including professional degree holders). Graduates with a terminal master’s in engineering had the highest median earnings, $116,000. (For information regarding the range of earnings found among each field’s graduates, see the supplemental tables.)
The gender earnings gap among terminal master’s degree holders in the humanities was 27%, substantially larger than that observed among the natural sciences and engineering fields but somewhat lower than what business graduates experienced.2 The gap among terminal master’s degree holders in general was 30%.
The small number of humanities master’s degree holders included in the National Survey of College Graduates sample and the disproportionately small share of humanities master’s degrees earned by some traditionally minoritized groups does not allow for reliable estimates of earnings by race/ethnicity.
- 2The gender earnings gap is the difference between men’s and women’s median annual earnings expressed as a percentage of men’s 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. 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 (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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.