Report suggests one student group that may need better career advising

Less than half of humanities doctoral grads work outside of higher ed

According to a recent analysis by Humanities Indicators, graduates with humanities doctorates have much different employment records than do doctoral graduates in other fields. What's more, there are significant gender gaps among humanities doctoral graduates, Scott Jaschik reports for Inside Higher Ed.

When it comes to types of jobs, those with humanities doctorates have a strong tendency to land in higher education.

In 2013, the analysis reports that 60% of employed humanities doctoral graduates were teaching at colleges and universities. This number drops by half—to 30%—when looking at doctoral graduates in all fields.

For graduates with science or engineering doctorates, only 18-28% teach in higher education; the vast majority work in other fields such as health care.

The analysis also shows a significant difference in post-graduate earnings between those with humanities doctorates and doctoral graduates in other fields. 

Transform student employment into meaningful career development

In 2013, humanities doctoral graduates reported earning a median of $75,000 per year, compared with the $99,000 median yearly earnings of all doctoral graduates. The difference is even more pronounced when comparing the humanities doctoral graduates with doctoral graduates in engineering, who reported earning a median $124,000 per year.

When looking at only the top 25% of earners in these categories, however, the discrepancy reverses; in 2013, the top 25% of humanities doctoral graduates earned more than 50% of graduates with doctorates in other fields.

Gender gaps among humanities doctoral graduates also stood out in the report.

Female humanities doctoral graduates are more likely to teach in higher education or pre-collegiate education. They were also more likely to hold management positions outside of higher education.

Male humanities doctoral graduates, on the other hand, were more likely to hold non-teaching jobs within higher education—most of which are administrative positions. Men were also more likely to work in computer sciences, engineering, and sales. 

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These findings generally match those of students with terminal master's degrees—more humanities master's graduates are employed in higher education than their non-humanities counterparts.

So what should colleges do about employment outcomes for these students?

Robert Townsend, the director of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Washington office, says "the problem is not with oversupply, but rather with the training culture and perceived career pathways for humanities Ph.D.s."

He suggests career services should help humanities degree holders broaden their career search.

"Unless and until doctoral training in the humanities prepares students for a broad range of careers, graduates will be subject to the boom-and-bust cycles of the academic job market," Townsend says (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 10/31). 

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