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Since the mid-2000s, the large disciplinary societies in the humanities have been discussing the purpose of the master’s degree, even as the field’s share of all master’s and professional degrees fell to historic lows. A committee of the Modern Language Association recently noted “a gap between students’ aspirations and employment outcomes on the one hand and M.A. programs’ stated goals and curricular requirements on the other.”1 To provide empirical grounding for this important discussion, the Humanities Indicators examines the occupational distribution of humanities master’s degree recipients and how it compares to that of master’s and professional degree holders in other fields.

Endnotes

III-21a: Occupational Distribution of Terminal Master’s and Professional Degree Holders,* Humanities and All Fields Combined, 2015

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* Employed full- or part-time at any point in the previous five years.

** See the provided crosswalk for information regarding the occupations included in this category.
Source: National Science Foundation, 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

This indicator is based on data collected as part of the National Science Foundation’s National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). 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. The 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, which also indicates which types of jobs are included in each of the broad occupational categories used for this analysis. These occupation-related indicators are based on NSCG data, but similar items included in the Humanities Indicators rely on data from the American Community Survey (ACS). Due to marked differences in how NSCG and ACS classify academic fields and occupations, the contents of the field-of-degree and occupational categories used for this indicator are not identical to those used for the ACS-based indicators III-03a, 03b, and 05b. (For more information on the contents of the categories used for the ACS analysis, see the pertinent crosswalk.) An even more important difference between these indicators and the ACS-based occupation-related indicators is that the master’s degree recipients considered here are those whose master’s degree was in the humanities (irrespective of the field of their undergraduate degree). The ACS does not collect data about the fields in which advanced degrees were earned. The ACS-based indicators thus describe the occupational distribution of undergraduate humanities majors who went on to pursue advanced degrees, regardless of the field of the advanced degree.

III-21b: Occupational Distribution of Terminal Humanities Master’s Degree Holders,* by Gender, 2015

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* Employed full- or part-time at any point in the previous five years.

** See the provided crosswalk for information regarding the occupations included in this category.
Source: National Science Foundation, 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

This indicator is based on data collected as part of the National Science Foundation’s National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). 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. The 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, which also indicates which types of jobs are included in each of the broad occupational categories used for this analysis. These occupation-related indicators are based on NSCG data, but similar items included in the Humanities Indicators rely on data from the American Community Survey (ACS). Due to marked differences in how NSCG and ACS classify academic fields and occupations, the contents of the field-of-degree and occupational categories used for this indicator are not identical to those used for the ACS-based indicators III-03a, 03b, and 05b. (For more information on the contents of the categories used for the ACS analysis, see the pertinent crosswalk.) An even more important difference between these indicators and the ACS-based occupation-related indicators is that the master’s degree recipients considered here are those whose master’s degree was in the humanities (irrespective of the field of their undergraduate degree). The ACS does not collect data about the fields in which advanced degrees were earned. The ACS-based indicators thus describe the occupational distribution of undergraduate humanities majors who went on to pursue advanced degrees, regardless of the field of the advanced degree.

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