Career Success

Humanities Majors Find Lucrative Careers

This section draws on employment and salary data to make the case that humanities majors find lucrative careers in a variety of fields. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has released regular analyses of employment rates for each college major. These data show that even in the midst of the recession (2010-2011) humanities majors were employed at rates comparable to other majors. We draw on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, meanwhile, to show that, as the economy has recovered, unemployment rates have fallen for all college graduates and humanities majors continue to be employed at rates comparable to their peers.

We draw on data from the Humanities Indicators to show that humanities majors find employment in a wide variety of careers and are quite likely to be managers in their selected fields.

For salary data, we draw again on the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce and Payscale.com. Georgetown’s 2015 report shows that a few years out of college, humanities and liberal arts majors—which the Center groups together—outperform some surprising majors. Payscale.com data, meanwhile, shows that students who earn a Bachelor’s degree in the humanities ultimately do as well as—or better than—majors in other fields, including business management and accounting. In his analysis of this data, Jeffrey Dorfman of the University of Georgia has noted that humanities majors “are still getting an A in economics because the returns on their investments are quite high.”

Finally, this section also includes data from the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, which  analyzed lifetime earnings for the top 10% of earners in various disciplines using U.S. Census Bureau data and found that the top 10% in history and philosophy beat out those in Computer Science. So, why do some humanities majors outperform their peers as their careers progress? It may have to do with the skills and background that are sought in more senior roles. Says Erika Walker, Assistant Dean at UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School, “Businesses are telling us they need… more reflective education”—the kind of education that provides the critical thinking, analytical and writing skills that employers demand, and that are the hallmark of the humanities.

 

As with each section of this website, we invite your suggestions. Please share additional qualitative and quantitative data related to to the salary and employment outcomes of humanities majors. We are also interested in hearing how you have deployed this data and the broader argument that studying the humanities provides a positive financial return on investment.

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