Hang in There, Humanities Majors

Inside Higher Ed breaks down a new report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities that comes bearing good news for liberal arts majors.

While it may take a bit longer to find well-paid jobs, by the time they’re (we’re!) in our 50s we make on average more money than people who studied in professional or pre-professional fields. So um, we’ll see who has the last laugh, dentists! In approximately 25 years, when we earn $2,000 more than you:

At peak earning ages (56–60), graduates with a baccalaureate degree in a humanities or social science field are making $40,000 more than they were as recent graduates (21–25). And while in the years following graduation they earn $5,000 less than people with professional or pre-professional degrees, liberal arts majors earn $2,000 more at peak earning ages, when they make about $66,000. (Salaries in both fields still lag behind engineering and math and sciences graduates, who in their late 50s make about $98,000 and $87,000, respectively.)

And STEM wins again. ◔_◔

The study suggests that when choosing a major, you don’t have to choose between making money and learning about stuff you like — though they do just come right out and recommend that liberal arts majors get graduate degrees, which increases their earning potential $20K a year. To that I would say consider the source, Association of American Colleges and Universities.


While making the case that liberal arts graduates are perfectly payable and employable, the report also drives home the fact that there’s one area where humanities and social sciences majors have everyone beat: meeting employers’ desires and expectations.

Employers consistently say they want to hire people who have a broad knowledge base and can work together to solve problems, debate, communicate and think critically, the report notes — all skills that liberal arts programs aggressively, and perhaps uniquely, strive to teach.

“Until somebody proves otherwise, they own the argument about general skill,” Carnevale said.