State of the Humanities 2022: From Graduate Education to the Workforce

Graduate Degrees Conferred in the Humanities as a Share of All Degrees, by Degree Level, 1988–2020

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Humanities Indicators

Graduate Degrees Conferred in the Humanities as a Share of All Degrees, by Degree Level, 1988–2020

Viewed as a percentage of all degrees conferred at each level, the humanities disciplines rose for a time after the late 1980s but then declined from their peak. The humanities’ share of master’s and professional degrees rose as high as 5% in 1997 but fell substantially over the next 23 years (to 3% in 2020). At the doctoral level, the share of humanities degrees rose to 11% in 2000, but by 2020 had declined to just 7% of all degrees awarded.

Despite the fact that from 1988 to 2020 many more master’s than doctoral degrees were earned in the humanities, master’s degrees in the field represented a markedly smaller share of all degrees granted at the corresponding level. (For those interested in a longer view, the Humanities Indicators website offers a time series extending back as far as 1948 for six of the largest humanities disciplines. In all but a few years, the share of graduate degrees awarded to that subset of the field from 1948 to 1987 was substantially higher than the levels now seen for the field as a whole.)2


  • 2Ibid.

    A professional degree is one classified within IPEDS as a professional-practice doctorate, which is defined by the National Center for Education Statistics as a doctor’s degree (requiring at least six academic years to complete, including undergraduate education) that is conferred upon completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credential, or license required for professional practice; or, for earlier years, a first professional degree. The latter category included ten degree types: Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.); Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.); Law (LL.B. or J.D.); Medicine (M.D.); Optometry (O.D.); Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.); Pharmacy (Pharm.D.); Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.); Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination); and Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.).