Recent Reports Highlight Humanities Majors' Career Salary Gains


Posted on August 15, 2017 by


Evidence continues to accumulate that humanities (or liberal arts) majors see some of the fastest increases in salary during the course of their careers. Humanities majors typically include majors in Art, English, History, International Studies, Modern and Classical Languages, Music, Political Science, Philosophy, and Psychology. These findings have started to enter the mainstream media, as with this recent Wall Street Journal article.

But the evidence supporting the value of humanities majors has been building for some time. A 2014 study by the American Association of College and Universities found that "at peak earnings ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or pre-professional fields." These findings are supported by earlier studies. One is a 2010 study of salary rates by major which concluded that "Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.” A Brookings Institute report from 2014 found a similar result.

Over time, employment rates for humanities majors also tend to match -- or even exceed -- occupationally specific majors as well. For instance, the 2014 American Association of College and Universities study that concluded that humanities majors earn more over time than professional or pre-professional majors also found that "The unemployment rate for mature workers with liberal arts degrees (41-50) is 3.5 percent—just .04 percent higher than the rates for those with a professional or preprofessional degree." And an earlier study of employment rates found that beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields.


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