Share

Over the past 15 years, the purpose of the humanities master’s degree has been a subject of interest for the field’s disciplinary societies. In 2011, a Modern Language Association committee 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 a discussion of the role of the degree—a conversation taking place as the field’s share of all master’s degrees completed has reached a historic low—the Humanities Indicators examined the occupational distribution of terminal master’s degree holders in the humanities (i.e., individuals whose highest degree is a master’s in a humanities discipline) and how it compares to that of degree holders in other fields.

Endnotes

  • 1Association of Departments of English Ad Hoc Committee on the Master’s Degree, Rethinking the Master’s Degree in English for a New Century (New York: Modern Language Association, 2011), https://www.mla.org/content/download/25406/1164106/2011adhocrpt.pdf, accessed 9/20/2022. See also Philip M. Katz, Retrieving the Master’s Degree from the Dustbin of History (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2006), https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/historical-archives/retrieving-the-masters-degree-from-the-dustbin-of-history, accessed 9/20/2022.
Copy link

* 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.

† Excludes holders of the J.D. and other professional degrees.

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)

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 the types of jobs that 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 the 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 an advanced degree, regardless of the field of that degree.

Copy link

* Employed full- or part-time at any point in the previous five years. Men and women are the only two gender categories employed by the National Survey of College Graduates, the source of the data for this indicator.
** See the provided 
crosswalk for information regarding the occupations included in this category.

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).

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 the types of jobs that 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 the 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 an advanced degree, regardless of the field of that degree.

 

Back to Humanities Indicators
Share