Get the facts about humanities outcomes

'The evidence is clear—majoring in the humanities is not a path to poverty'

Caroline Hopkins, Staff WriterCaroline Hopkins, Staff Writer

A little over a year ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a debate: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers."

Rubio tapped into a national skepticism about the value of humanities degrees. Fortunately for me and my English-degree-holding fellows, the reality is that humanities majors go on to be very successful.

Data from the Census Bureau, Humanities Indicators, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and Research Gate make a strong case for studying the humanities amidst recent rhetoric claiming the opposite.


  • In 2013, the median income for humanities graduates with a bachelor's degree totaled $50,000—that's a full $15,000 higher than the median income for people without degrees, which was $35,000.
  • 42.5% of humanities majors go on to get advanced degrees, compared with 36.3% of all graduates with a bachelor's degree, and their advanced education resulted in a 42% median earnings increase in 2013.
  • The income gap between humanities majors and other majors narrows as workers gain more experience.


  • The unemployment rate for humanities graduates with terminal bachelor's degrees in 2013 was 5.4%, compared with 7.2% for graduates without degrees.
  • Medical students who study humanities—art history, in particular—go on to become better diagnosticians than their peers.


  • Nearly 90% of humanities majors report being satisfied with their jobs after 10 years, and 80% are pleased with the opportunities to use their education in their jobs. It's worth noting that education majors were most satisfied with their jobs out of all majors studied.

EAB Managing Director David Attis recently argued in eCampusNews that "Humanities majors are just as prepared to succeed in the workforce as their business major counterparts, although they tend to opt for less lucrative careers."

Attis says, "The skills that employers seek in candidates are often cultivated by a liberal arts education, such as problem solving, teamwork, and oral and written communication." There's data to support that, too—according to a report from the Pew Research center, employers want well-rounded candidates with soft skills. In 2015, there [were] more than 90 million jobs that require social skills. 

Read more of Attis' defense

Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Humanities Indicators principal investigators Norman Bradburn and Robert Townsend concluded, "The evidence is clear—majoring in the humanities is not a path to poverty" (Bradburn/Townsend, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/27).

How to reclaim the value of the liberal arts for the 21st century

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