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Indicator III-9 Number of Humanities Faculty Members
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 12/11/2013 with data for 2007–2012.

See the
Note on the Definition of Faculty Member and on the Classification of Disciplines and the Note on Postsecondary Faculty Employment Data Sources.

From 1999 to 2012 U.S. postsecondary enrollment increased approximately 40%,1 a development that coincided with a 50.7% increase in the number of humanities faculty members (Figure III-9a). Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education show that the number of instructional faculty members employed part-time recently surpassed the number of faculty members employed in full-time positions, but these data do not differentiate among the academic fields. (The last study that collected postsecondary faculty data by employment type and field was suspended indefinitely by the department after the 2004 round.) As a result, it is not possible to determine what portion of the recent growth in the size of the humanities faculty was due to hiring into adjunct positions, rather than more traditional tenure track appointments.

Figure III-9a, Full Size
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Although the number of humanities faculty members increased over the 2000s, the proportion of all college and university faculty members who taught in humanities disciplines changed little, hovering between 11% and 12% throughout the 2004–2012 time period (Figure III-9b). Such stasis was true across the board. The 2000s were not an era of striking change in the allocation of faculty members among fields.

Figure III-9b, Full Size
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In 2012 the discipline of English language and literature had the largest number of faculty members in the humanities (71,320), nearly three times the number of those teaching languages and literatures other than English (25,290) or history (23,500; Figure III-9c). The number of faculty members in each humanities discipline increased at least 39% from 1999 to 2012. The most marked growth occurred in the area, ethnic, and cultural studies faculty, as well as that of philosophy and religion (growing 223% and 73% respectively; in comparing rates of growth, differences in the base size of disciplines’ faculties must be considered).

Figure III-9c, Full Size
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English language and literature is unique in that it is the only humanities discipline to experience a recent decline in the number of faculty members. After several years of the most substantial growth experienced by the discipline since 1999, 2012 saw a drop of approximately 1% in the number of faculty members teaching English in the nation’s colleges and universities.


1 U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 221. Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: Selected years, 1947 through 2011,” Digest of Education Statistics (2012),

Note on the Definition of Faculty Member and on the Classification of Disciplines

For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, a faculty member is defined as an employee of a two-year or four-year college or a university who teaches credit-earning courses and who may also perform research activities. Faculty members thus include not only individuals who have faculty status in their institutions but also those who are classified as instructional staff by their employers. Faculty members exclude those individuals whose duties are purely research oriented (even though such individuals may be classified as faculty by their institutions).

Classification of Academic Disciplines

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the collector of the data on which the first indicator in this section is based (III-9, Number of Humanities Faculty Members), sorts postsecondary faculty members by academic discipline, using a scheme that includes six humanities-related categories. Five of these have been combined by the Humanities Indicators for the purposes of estimating humanities faculty employment. They include:

“English Language and Literature”;
“Foreign Languages and Literatures”;
“Philosophy and Religion”; and
“Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies.”

The sixth BLS category, "Arts, Drama, and Music," does not distinguish between faculty members who teach the academic study of the arts (treated by the Humanities Indicators as a humanities activity) and those who teach studio and performing arts. Consequently, faculty members teaching the history and criticism of the fine arts and film are not included in the estimate of the number of humanities faculty members.

The National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF), the source of the data for the other indicators in this section, conceptualizes the humanities somewhat more narrowly than does the Humanities Indicators, including only those individuals teaching English, history, languages and literatures other than English, philosophy, and religion. Additionally, the NSOPF treats computer science as a natural science, whereas the Humanities Indicators considers this discipline to be part of the engineering field and classifies it as such for the purposes of the other indicators.

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Note on Postsecondary Faculty Employment Data Sources

Indicator III-9, Number of Humanities Faculty Members, relies on employment data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. According to the OES, the term employment refers to 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 noncontract 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 nonfarm industries. Self-employed owners, partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, and unpaid family workers are excluded.

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 member 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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