Written by Joanna Hughes

Humanities PhDs don’t always have the easiest path. In fact, between an extremely competitive job market and high student debt, life with a humanities doctorate has its fair share of obstacles. If you are thinking of letting these obstacles deter you from graduate school, however, a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) offers new insights -- and a refreshing perspective. Here’s a closer look at the just-released research brief on the topic.

Positive Findings Abound

Are humanities PhDs getting a bad rap? Yes, going by the many positive things they had to say in response to the CGS survey.

For starters, 85 percent of employed humanities PhDs report that they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with their work. Not only that, but 92 percent of humanities PhDs were working in jobs that were “closely or somewhat related” to their fields of study. A significant majority also responded that their humanities PhD studies had prepared them well for their careers.

But perhaps the biggest endorsement for PhD studies? A large majority of respondents said they would pursue PhDs in general or in the same field if they had the chance to start over again.

Another interesting takeaway from the study is that the further out graduates were from the studies, they more favorably they viewed them. CGS president Suzanne Ortega said, “It sometimes takes a while to realize all the different ways that you use those skills. Those skills have long-term value, and that’s really important to remember.”

Understanding PhD Pathways

The briefing data is part of an ongoing research project by CGS, with support from the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aimed at understanding and supporting the careers of PhD holders. Over the course of three years, universities are collecting and analyzing data on PhD career preferences and outcomes in order to strengthen career services and development opportunities. Stay tuned for more data as it is released.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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