Written by Alyssa Walker

New data from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences shows that despite lower pay than some of their colleagues, humanities PhDs have high levels of job satisfaction, especially if they stay in academics. 

The data shows that humanities PhDs who earned their degrees in 2015 had an 88 percent "very" or "somewhat" satisfied level of employment. The biggest disparity was between those in academic position and those working outside the academy. Ninety-one percent in the academy were satisfied, as opposed to 80 percent outside. 

What was striking? There was no similar difference in other fields, only in humanities. 

Other key findings include that in 2015, 56 percent of employed humanities PhDs taught at the college or university level. Only 29 percent of all PhDs in all fields listed postsecondary teaching as their main job.

Humanities PhDs also have the lowest median annual earning compared to other PhDs at about $77,000. The median salary for all PhDs across all fields was $99,000.

Those with new humanities PhDs with locked-in employment commitments were more likely to work in academics than their peers in natural sciences, technology, engineering and math. Seventy-six percent reported that they'd be working either full-time or part-time academic jobs. For new engineering PhDs, that number was 14 percent.

The data suggests that humanities are more focused on academia as a career option than their peers.

For those with terminal master's degrees, 88 percent reported job satisfaction in 2015 which was higher than those with business degrees, but slightly lower than every other field.

Thirty-seven percent of those terminal master's degree students in the humanities held teaching jobs, while 11 percent worked in management. They had a median salary of $58,000.

Learn more about earning your PhD.



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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