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What do humanities graduates do?

November 2023

Louise Ogle, careers consultant at Royal Holloway, University of London, examines the data on how humanities graduates fared 15 months after completing their course

The ongoing media commentary about a crisis facing humanities degrees was heightened in 2023 by a government 'crackdown on rip-off university degrees'.1

As a result, HEPI's 2023 report, 'The Humanities in the UK today: what's going on', was very timely.2 This report describes not a plummet in student numbers, but a redistribution of students across institutions, stating that humanities degrees have in fact remained relatively popular amongst UK home students. It also speaks of the resilience of humanities students who are equipped with 'a firm foundation in critical thinking, independent research skills and sophisticated linguistic and textual-information handling, coupled with advanced communication skills'.

It seems that students are continuing to recognise the value of a degree that equips them not for a specific career but for a wide range, many of which we may not yet be able to imagine. In the latest Graduate Outcomes dataset, 12% of graduates studied a humanities subject - lower than social sciences at 24%, but higher than science at 10%.

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What do graduates do? 2023/24

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In work, study or both

Around 85% of humanities graduates were in work, study or both 15 months after graduating (from philosophy at 84% to languages at 86.6%, with the other humanities subjects in between). These proportions are similar to law at 86.2% and biology at 86%, but lower than computer science at 89.1% and marketing at 90.7%. It is slightly below the overall average for the What do graduates do? population of 87.9%.

Further study popular

The proportion of students engaged in further study is slightly higher for humanities compared to other subjects, at between 10.6% and 15%. This is above the overall average for all subjects at 8.1%. Over half of humanities students engaged in further study are completing academic Masters courses, and around 19% are completing a Postgraduate diploma or certificate (including PGCE/PGDE).

Students are continuing to recognise the value of a degree that equips them not for a specific career but for a wide range.

Sectors of employment

'Secondary education teaching professionals' was the most likely occupation for humanities students in work, and this was followed by those employed as 'advertising and marketing associate professionals'. Popular sectors, after education and marketing, include 'other business and finance', 'media and publishing', and 'local and central government'.


Average starting salaries (for humanities graduates without significant further study) ranged from £23,320 (English Literature) to £28,307 (Philosophy). Humanities starting salaries are generally higher than for psychology graduates (£23,446) and education graduates (£22,633), similar to graduates in biology (£25,975) and law (£24,849) and lower than graduates in economics (£33,483) and electrical and electronic engineering (£31,874).

This may reflect a high proportion of graduates working in the public sector and creative industries, and in some cases a high proportion of graduates in ‘retail, waiting and other customer service’ roles (14.6% for English literature graduates at the time of the survey).

Greater connectivity

It is worth noting that this dataset is divided into five humanities subjects and therefore does not differentiate joint honours and broad liberal arts programmes connecting a range of disciplines, which are becoming increasingly popular within the humanities.3 The HEPI 2023 report argues for this greater connection between disciplines, and new sectors like CreaTech (where creativity meets technology) and SHAPE (where the humanities and arts meet the social sciences).4,5 These connections could present new opportunities for humanities graduates to use their skills in new ways in job sectors of the future.


  1. Crackdown on rip-off university degrees, GOV.UK, 2023.
  2. The Humanities in the UK Today: What's Going On?, HEPI, 2023.
  3. Talk of humanities crisis 'overblown', UK sector leaders say, Times Higher Education, 2023.
  4. CreaTech, Creative Industries Council.
  5. Becoming SHAPE, The British Academy.

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