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Pay Gaps Between STEM and the Humanities

By Sidra Miller


There is a societal stigma that those who pursue a career in the humanities won’t have financial and job security because their profession is "easy." Because of the negative atmosphere surrounding the humanities, students are discouraged from pursuing a career in it. People believe that because so many people try to go this route, very few percent end up becoming “successful.” However, even though they may not make as much as a nurse or engineer, they can still build successful life in the humanities. Studies have shown that even though STEM majors start making anywhere from $10-30k more than humanities graduates, that pay gap closes over time.


A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau compared 3 million responses of those who majored in the humanities and those who graduated with STEM degrees. It shows that 40% of humanities and social sciences go to graduate school, while 30% of STEM students go on to graduate school. In addition, 9% of humanity students earn a higher level of education in business or law, leading to higher pay. With employment rates, 5.2% of liberal arts majors are unemployed between the ages of 21-30. As they get older, that rate drops to 3.5%. People with liberal arts degrees fill positions such as counselors, social workers, teachers, etc. Unfortunately, those jobs tend to have less pay. Despite this, the pay gap still closes over time because art majors have more flexibility within their careers so they can shift into a variety of jobs (including high-paying ones). Even if they don’t start out making as much money, they report that they are equally as satisfied as STEM majors with their potential to advance in their careers and wages.


An author of The Atlantic, Benjamin Schmidt, commented that students are “fleeing humanities and related fields specifically because they think they have poor job prospects.” In addition, he reported, “History is down about 45 percent from its 2007 peak, while the number of English majors has fallen by nearly half since the late 1990s.” STEM jobs such as tech startups, consulting firms, and Google are actively looking for humanities graduates because those students learn how to think outside the box and use that knowledge to solve problems. This can be something as simple as leading a team through a project. It’s important to have people with these skills because they can connect to others on a deeper level and help build relationships, which is essential in any aspect of life. Feeding into the notion that the humanities will not educate you as much as other majors are therefore playing into the concept that interacting with people isn't as vital as technological advancement. As an industrial culture, we frequently forget that people have personal lives and that establishing direct ties is what makes people most inspired to work together.


Works Cited

Adams, Susan. “Majoring in the Humanities Does Pay Off, Just Later.” Forbes, 22 Jan. 2014,

www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/01/22/majoring-in-the-humanities-

does-pay-off-just-later/?sh=4ca2c6c4655b.

Senescall, Marie. “Op-Ed: Disparities between Humanities and STEM Co-Op Pay Creates

Misconceptions.” The Huntington News, 31 Oct. 2019,

huntnewsnu.com/60435/editorial/op-ed-disparities-between-humanities-and-

stem-co-op-pay-creates-misconceptions/.

Skildum, Brianna. “Misconceptions with Humanities.” The Oracle, 28 Feb. 2018,

hamlineoracle.com/5122/opinion/misconceptions-with-

humanities/#:~:text=A%20few%20other%20common%20misconceptions.



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