The share of master’s and doctoral degrees awarded in the humanities hit a record low in 2020, according to a new report released Friday by the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The report, “The State of the Humanities to 2022: From Graduate Education to the Workforce,” relies heavily on federal data to examine graduate education in the humanities, including graduate degree trends, career outcomes, the status of professors, and lack of fields. Diversity.
“It’s amazing to see our percentage of degrees drop to levels I’ve never seen before,” said Robert B. Townsend, director of the Humanities, Arts and Culture program in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The study’s broad findings amplify familiar disciplinary trends such as English language and literature, history, foreign languages and literature, and philosophy, which have long been seen as “in crisis”. The report also highlights a decline in humanities faculty positions and academic job advertisements for doctoral degrees in the humanities, long-term trends fueling a dismal academic job market for graduate degree holders in the humanities.
But a bright spot emerged in the data: Although their median earnings were lower than their peers in most other fields, about 90 percent of graduate degree recipients in the humanities were satisfied with their jobs (in academia or not) in 2019 – Compliant with master’s and doctoral degrees. Holders in other fields, the report said.
The data, while helpful in identifying trends, said “many questions remain unanswered” about the future of graduate education in the humanities, the report said. Ph.D. courses in the humanities may suffer if “the path to traditional academic careers remains narrow”. Humanities-only master’s programs may have to deal with a continued decline in the number of people seeking the credential, the report said.
“We want departments, colleges and schools to look at this data and think about how they are preparing their students for the future and what they are preparing for them,” Townsend said.
Here are some of the findings from the study: