Earnings of Humanities Ph.D.’s
- In 2019, full-time workers with a Ph.D. in the humanities had the lowest median annual earnings of workers with a doctorate in any of the major academic fields (Indicator III-24a; due to small sample size, Ph.D.’s in the arts are not included in this analysis). While the median earnings of Ph.D.’s in the humanities were $80,000, the median earnings for Ph.D.’s generally were $104,000. Doctoral degree holders in engineering and in business had the highest median earnings, $145,000.
- The range of earnings for humanities Ph.D.’s was relatively narrow in 2019, with a gap of $39,000 between the 25th and 75th percentiles, with workers at the 25th percentile making 63% of what their counterparts at the 75th percentile did. In comparison, among Ph.D.’s generally, the difference in earnings between the quartiles was $87,000, with lower-earning workers making 44% of what their higher-earning counterparts did. Life sciences had the largest gap as a percentage of earnings, with those in the 25th percentile making only 40% of those in the 75th. The life sciences also had the lowest 25th percentile salary, $63,000—$3,000 lower than that of the humanities. But humanities Ph.D.’s had the lowest 75th percentile earnings ($105,000) of all the academic fields examined here.
- While the Humanities Indicators has previously used National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) data to report on the gender wage gap for holders of advanced degrees in the humanities, the small number of humanities Ph.D.’s in the survey sample renders the NSCG an inappropriate data source for this analysis. The paucity of humanities Ph.D.'s in the NSCG sample, along with the disproportionately small share of Ph.D.’s in the humanities earned by students from traditionally minoritized racial and ethnic groups, also makes it impossible to analyze earnings by race/ethnicity using NSCG data.
III-24a: Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time Workers with a Doctoral Degree, by Field of Degree, 2019*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. The analysis excludes holders of the D.D.S., D.V.M., M.D., and other nonresearch degrees. A doctorate holder’s baccalaureate and/or master’s degree may be in a different field.
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).
Since the humanities were dropped from the biennial Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) in 1995, the National Science Foundation’s National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) is the only source of nationally representative data on the occupations and earnings of humanities Ph.D.’s. Conducted every two years, the 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.
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 NSCG and the 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.)
Another key difference between these indicators and the ACS-based earnings indicators is that the Ph.D. holders considered here are those whose doctoral degree was in the humanities (irrespective of the field of their undergraduate and any master’s 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.