Don’t Be Afraid of Going to Graduate School in the Humanities

Over 50 percent of humanities Ph.D.s who start out working in non-tenure-track positions make the jump to full-time, tenure-track employment in less than three years. Those who don’t make that jump, again, do what Ph.D.s have always done: Some choose interesting work in the business, governmental, or non-profit sectors, others in university administration. A few obtain tenure-track positions later in their careers. A small minority remain off the tenure track. Virtually none are unemployed.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that few humanities Ph.D.s regret their decision to go to grad school. Nerad and Cerny found that even among English Ph.D.s employed in business, government, or non-profits—fields for which their Ph.D. was, strictly speaking, completely unnecessary—64 percent said that given the choice to do it over, even knowing how things would turn out for them, they would still pursue the Ph.D over law school, medical school, doctoral study in a different field, or no graduate school at all. Overall, 89 percent of them felt that the Ph.D. was worth it, even though they hadn’t joined the profession many had likely thought they would. —Don’t Be Afraid of Going to Graduate School in the Humanities