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Indicator III-1 Humanities-Related Employment
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,".
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Updated (1/20/2012).

For data on rates of unemployment among humanities graduates, see the May 2013 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

CAUTION: While the original version of this indicator, based on data from the early 2000s, is available for viewing in the HI archive, it is recommended that this earlier version NOT BE USED. In particular, NO ATTEMPT SHOULD BE MADE TO ASSESS CHANGE OVER TIME IN HUMANITIES EMPLOYMENT ON THE BASIS OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE ESTIMATES IN THE EARLIER INDICATOR AND THE ESTIMATES PROVIDED HERE FOR 2007/2008/2009. The updated estimates reflect a host of conceptual and methodological refinements, include new categories of workers, and are derived from data that paint a fuller picture of humanities employment. Perhaps the most significant improvement to this indicator is the use of data sources (the American Community Survey [ACS] and Occupational Outlook Handbook) that include self-employment, which, for certain humanities occupations, represents a substantial share of total employment; for example, approximately 71% of employment in the occupation of “writers and authors (nontechnical)” is self-employment.1 Due to time and resource constraints, the earlier version of this indicator relied heavily on data from the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. Because they are derived from a survey of businesses rather than persons, OES data necessarily exclude self-employment.

See the
Note on Humanities Employment Data.

For the purposes of this indicator, humanities-related employment encompasses:

  • humanities research and teaching;
  • humanities occupations; that is, jobs (beyond research and teaching) that require humanities knowledge (e.g., art museum curator) and/or humanistic skills (e.g., editor) or that support key elements of the nation’s humanities infrastructure;
  • the administrative, technical, and support jobs necessary to the operation of key types of humanistic institutions; and
  • employment in the publishing industry (beyond that included in humanities occupations), because this industry produces books and other texts (1) the consumption and interpretation of which are key humanistic competencies and (2) that are the major vehicles by which the fruits of humanistic scholarship are disseminated.
Unless otherwise noted, the estimates provided here include full- and part-time employment, as well as self-employment. For a discussion of the data sources (both the rationale for and implications of their use) from which these estimates are drawn, see Note on Humanities Employment Data). Full citations for the various data sets on which these estimates are based are included on Figure III-1.

Toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century, humanities-related employment amounted to approximately 3.86 million jobs, or 2.6% of all employment.2 Figure III-1 displays separate estimates for each of the broad categories of humanities-related employment listed above. These categories are described more fully below, and estimates are supplied for each of the more specific occupations or sectors that together compose the workforce total. Where an estimate from a given data source had to be adjusted using data from an additional source, a description of these operations is provided.

Figure III-1, Full Size
Supporting Data Supporting Data

Humanities Research and Teaching (1,371,870; 36% of total humanities-related employment3

Precollegiate Teaching (1,090,261
In the 2007–2008 academic year, 726,641 primary (elementary and middle school) and secondary teachers, representing 19% of all such faculty, taught humanities subjects or skills. Approximately 360,000 of these taught at the primary level exclusively. Almost 320,000 taught high school exclusively. The remainder served students at both levels. (For more on the characteristics of humanities educators at the primary and secondary levels, see Part I, Section C, Primary and Secondary Faculty.) This figure is a conservative estimate because it does not take into account the many “general education” teachers at the primary level (32% of the precollegiate teaching corps) who spend a portion of their time teaching reading, language arts, and history.

In addition, the nation’s public and private schools employed 181,810 kindergarten teachers (excluding special education specialists). The HI treats kindergarten teachers as humanities teachers because the bulk of their time is spent laying the foundation for the development of children’s written and oral language skills.

The HI places the number of teaching assistants supporting precollegiate humanities teachers at 181,810. This is a conservative estimate based on the assumption that every classroom kindergarten teacher is paired with an assistant. While teachers in other grades may also have assistants, calculating an estimate of the number of such personnel is not possible because available data cannot be broken out by academic subject.

Postsecondary Teaching (185,609)
In 2008–2009, there were 166,070 postsecondary humanities faculty positions in the United States. This figure includes teaching jobs in the nation’s colleges (including two-year institutions) and universities, as well as several thousand in other institutional settings, such as firms and government agencies. (For more on postsecondary humanities faculty, see Part III, Section D, Postsecondary Humanities Faculty.)

This estimate was calculated by summing across those humanities disciplines for which the BLS produces postsecondary faculty employment estimates—namely, English language and literature, languages and literatures other than English, history, area/cultural/ethnic studies, philosophy, and religion. Another BLS disciplinary category, “arts, drama, and music,” could not be considered for this indicator because BLS does not distinguish between faculty positions in arts-related humanistic disciplines such as art history and those in the studio and performing arts. Thus this estimate is conservative.

The number of graduate research and teaching assistants in the humanities can be estimated only imprecisely because available data are not disaggregable by academic discipline. The HI arrived at a figure of 19,539 by multiplying the total number of such jobs (122,120) by the proportion of graduate students who were studying humanities in the mid-2000s (.16; calculated using enrollment data collected as part of the National Research Council’s Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States).

Alternative Education in the Humanities (96,000)
Adult literacy, GED, and remedial education teaching jobs are also treated as humanities-related employment by the HI. There were close to 100,000 positions of this kind in 2008, although some proportion may have involved the teaching of nonhumanities subjects (disaggregating these positions by subject matter taught is not possible, so this figure may be an overestimate).

Employment in Humanities Occupations (794,708; 21% of total humanities-related employment)

Individuals employed in humanities occupations include
  • Archivists, 6,300
  • Audiovisual Collections Specialists (who prepare, plan, and operate audiovisual teaching aids for use in education or who record, catalog, and file audiovisual materials in libraries and museums as well as a variety of other institutions and enterprises), 6,800
  • Authors and Writers (nontechnical; news analysts, correspondents, and reporters are tallied separately), 151,700
  • Editors (text), 129,600
  • Historians (nonfaculty), 4,100
  • Humanities Museum Curators, 4,212
  • Humanities Museum Technicians and Conservators, 3,996
  • Interpreters and Translators, 50,900
  • Librarians, 159,900
  • Library Technicians, 120,600
  • News Analysts, Correspondents, and Reporters, 69,300
  • Technical Writers, 48,900
  • Tour Guides and Escorts, 38,400

Employment in Humanities Institutions (1,199,182; 31% of total humanities-related employment)

This estimate and that for the publishing sector exclude employment of the types described previously (e.g., humanities faculty, historians).

The jobs described here involve the technical, administrative, customer service, and maintenance functions essential to the operation of key types of humanities institutions, including:

  • Archives and Libraries, 129,700
  • Colleges and Universities, 311,741
The ACS data on which this estimate is based cannot be disaggregated by academic discipline. Consequently, arriving at an estimate of the proportion of college and university support staff whose employment is attributable to the existence of humanities departments on the nation’s college and university campuses is difficult. Nonetheless, the job count cited above can provide a useful starting point for thinking about the extent of nonfaculty employment generated by the humanities. This count was calculated as follows:
According to the ACS, employment in administration, food service, computer network support, security, construction, and other nonfaculty positions was 3,463,789 in 2008 (this figure excludes employment in the humanities occupations addressed above). This total was multiplied by the proportion of all bachelor’s, masters, and doctoral degrees that were awarded in humanities disciplines (.09; see Indicator II-1, Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities, and Indicator II-10, Advanced Degrees in the Humanities) to obtain the amount of nonfaculty employment that was attributable to the postsecondary humanities enterprise (the number of support staff employed by these institutions is largely a function of the number of students served).
  • Humanities Museums, 128,823
These include museums classified by the American Association of Museums (AAM) as art museums, general museums, history museums, historic houses and sites, and historical societies. Employment was estimated by multiplying total museum employment in 2008 (357,841; this figure has been adjusted to exclude employment in humanities occupations) by an estimate derived from AAM data of the proportion of the nation’s museum personnel who work in the types of museums mentioned above (.36). This estimate excludes the many unpaid volunteers who work as tour guides and docents in such museums.
  • Primary and Secondary Schools, 628,918
According to the ACS, school employment in jobs other than teaching and the humanities occupations listed above was 3,310,095 in 2008. This figure was multiplied by .19, the share of all elementary and secondary schoolteachers who teach humanities subjects, to obtain an estimate of the share of education personnel who support precollegiate humanities instruction.

Employment in Book, Newspaper, and Periodical Publishing (excluding Internet-only publishing4) (489,603; 13% of total humanities-related employment)

This estimate and that for employment in humanities institutions exclude employment of the types described previously (e.g., humanities faculty, historians).

Because the U.S. Economic Census (EC) does not ask employers to describe the different types of jobs its employees perform (see Note on Humanities Employment Data for more about why the EC data were used as the basis of the publishing employment estimate), HI personnel were unable, on the basis of these data alone, to exclude the already-tallied jobs in humanities occupations. As a way of estimating the share of jobs that should be excluded in order to avoid double counting (e.g., many editors work in the publishing industry but should not be counted here because they are included in the total for “Humanities Occupations”), HI personnel used data from BLS’s OES program to determine the share of the entire non-Internet publishing sector (including directory and mailing list publishing) engaged in the humanities occupations mentioned above (.21). This proportion was subtracted from the total for the newspaper, book, and periodical publishing sector (619,751) to yield an estimate of almost half a million.

Unlike the estimates provided for other types of humanities employment, this estimate does not include self-employment (e.g., freelance illustrators and designers).


1 Total U.S. employment for 2002 was 127,523,760, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, “Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: National Cross-Industry Estimates” (2002),

2For most occupations and sectors, the most current year for which appropriate data were available was 2008. Data for the publishing sector are from 2007. For a small number of occupations, 2009 data were available. Total U.S. employment for 2008 was 150,931,700, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Employment Matrix,

3Due to rounding, these percentages do not add to 100%.

4Employment for Internet publishing could not be estimated because existing data sources include under the heading of “Internet publishing” a variety of business types—Internet gaming, discount coupon publishing, and so on—that are not humanities-related. According to the 2007 Economic Census, employment by firms engaged in Internet-only publishing still constitutes only a small proportion, approximately 7%, of all (nonsoftware) publishing (see Figure III-1 for Economic Census source information).

Note on Humanities Employment Data

Indicator III-I, Size and Occuapational Distribution of the Humanities Workforce, relies on employment data collected by the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. According to the OES, employment is the number of workers who can be classified as full- and part-time employees, including workers on paid vacations or other types of leave; workers on unpaid short-term absences; salaried officers, executives, and staff members of incorporated firms; employees temporarily assigned to other units; and non-contract employees for whom the reporting unit is their permanent duty station regardless of whether that unit prepares their paychecks.

The OES survey includes all full- and part-time wage and salary workers in non-farm industries. Self-employed owners, partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, and unpaid family workers are excluded. (U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Appendix B: Survey Method and Reliability Statement for May 2003 Occupational Employment Statistics Survey,” 227,

The OES does not survey individual workers. Rather, it surveys “establishments”—that is, firms and businesses—concerning the jobs their employees perform. Employment figures should therefore be understood as job counts. Thus, employment as the BLS uses the term is not synonymous with workforce—the former will tend to be greater because some workers may be employed by more than one establishment. This distinction between jobs and workers is particularly important with regard to postsecondary faculty employment estimates because a substantial percentage of those teaching in postsecondary educational institutions are part-time employees (see Indicator III-11, Traditional versus Nontraditional Humanities Faculty) and either 1) work another full or part-time nonacademic job or 2) teach classes at more than one college/university.

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