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While debate about the economic value of college degrees tends to refer to the undifferentiated category of “humanities majors,” it is important to distinguish between holders of terminal bachelor’s degrees and holders of bachelor’s degrees who go on to obtain an advanced degree, given significant differences in their workforce outcomes. The indicators below examine the types of jobs held by humanities majors with advanced degrees, which may or may not be in the humanities (available data do not indicate the field of the postbaccalaureate degree; see the relevant items on recipients of master’s and doctoral degrees for the occupations of those with advanced degrees in particular fields). One key finding is that workers who started their studies in the humanities were more evenly distributed across occupational categories than advanced degree holders (ADHs) who majored in several other fields, suggesting that students with a humanities education are equipped to pursue a range of vocations.1

Endnotes

  • 1In 2015, 40.6% of humanities majors possessed at least one advanced degree (see Supplemental Table III-4). For information regarding the occupational distribution of all humanities majors, irrespective of subsequent education, see Supplemental Table III-3.

III-03a: Occupational Distribution of Advanced Degree Holders with an Undergraduate Degree in the Humanities,* 2015

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* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours. Advanced degree may be in any field.

** Includes educational administrators, teaching assistants, and workers categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as “other teachers and instructors.”

† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The information presented here on the occupations of advanced degree holders who majored in the humanities in college is based on an original analysis by the Humanities Indicators (HI) of data from the American Community Survey (ACS), which has been administered by the U.S. Census Bureau since 2005. The ACS replaced the “long form” version of the decennial census and collects information—used to allocate more than $400 billion in state and federal funding—about Americans’ personal characteristics, family composition, employment, income, and housing. The indicators under this topic (as well as “Occupations of Humanities Majors with a Terminal Bachelor’s Degree”) use ACS data to describe the occupational distribution of two distinct groups. The first comprises holders of terminal bachelor’s degrees in the humanities. The second group is the subset of humanities majors who held advanced degrees in the humanities or other fields (information on which field an advanced degree was obtained in is not collected as a part of the ACS). The HI has chosen to focus its analysis not merely on the currently employed but on those college graduates who were employed at any time in the previous five years, because the objective of this indicator is to shed as much light as possible on what humanities majors go on to do in the way of paid employment and how this compares to the occupational outcomes of those who majored in other fields. To consider only the currently employed would be to lose information regarding, for example, the employment experiences of the recently retired or those who have temporarily exited the paid labor force to care for children or an elderly family member or to go back to school. The ACS permits respondents to specify up to two fields of bachelor’s degree. For the purposes of this analysis, an individual was counted as having a bachelor’s degree in the humanities if the field of either reported degree was within the scope of the humanities as specified by the HI. Information regarding the (1) occupations included in each category in the graph and (2) specific degree programs grouped under each broad field heading is provided in the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

III-03b: Occupational Distribution of Advanced Degree Holders,* by Undergraduate Major, 2015

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* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours. Advanced degree may be in any field.]

** Includes educational administrators, teaching assistants, and workers categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as “other teachers and instructors.”

† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

The information presented here on the occupations of advanced degree holders who majored in the humanities in college is based on an original analysis by the Humanities Indicators (HI) of data from the American Community Survey (ACS), which has been administered by the U.S. Census Bureau since 2005. The ACS replaced the “long form” version of the decennial census and collects information—used to allocate more than $400 billion in state and federal funding—about Americans’ personal characteristics, family composition, employment, income, and housing. The indicators under this topic (as well as “Occupations of Humanities Majors with a Terminal Bachelor’s Degree” ) use ACS data to describe the occupational distribution of two distinct groups. The first comprises holders of terminal bachelor’s degrees in the humanities. The second group is the subset of humanities majors who held advanced degrees in the humanities or other fields (information on which field an advanced degree was obtained in is not collected as a part of the ACS). The HI has chosen to focus its analysis not merely on the currently employed but on those college graduates who were employed at any time in the previous five years, because the objective of this indicator is to shed as much light as possible on what humanities majors go on to do in the way of paid employment and how this compares to the occupational outcomes of those who majored in other fields. To consider only the currently employed would be to lose information regarding, for example, the employment experiences of the recently retired or those who have temporarily exited the paid labor force to care for children or an elderly family member or to go back to school. The ACS permits respondents to specify up to two fields of bachelor’s degree. For the purposes of this analysis, an individual was counted as having a bachelor’s degree in the humanities if the field of either reported degree was within the scope of the humanities as specified by the HI. Information regarding the (1) occupations included in each category in the graph and (2) specific degree programs grouped under each broad field heading is provided in the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

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