Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Humanities Writ Large

In a column on the Forbes website, University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Dorfman makes a data-driven case that "humanities degrees are still worth a great deal."

Using data from payscale.com on the average salary of college graduates broken out by major, Dorfman calculated the present value of a 45 year career of those with various humanities degrees. For comparison he did the same calculation for those with only a high school degree.

The present value of the extra earnings that graduates in humanities majors can expect over their lifetime is $302,400 for drama majors, $444,700 for English majors, $537,800 for history majors, and $658,900 for philosophy majors. If a person goes to a top-level, in-state, public university with no financial aid of any kind, the total cost is likely to run around $80,000 (tuition, books, and living expenses). That means the much maligned humanities majors are still getting an A in economics because the returns on their investments are quite high (in the 300 to 700 percent range).