I read a recent report from the Swedish Institute of Futures Studies titled Humanisterna och framtidssamhället, “Humanities Scholars and Society in the Future” (freely available as a PDF). I found some but not too much of the usual unrealistic sloganeering about how useful the humanities are to society, and a lot of pretty sobering statistics. In the following note that the typical basic degree in Sweden is the MA. I translate:

“… among those with a basic degree as highest qualification, humanities graduates clearly have the lowest annual incomes in 2008 … Humanities graduates with basic degrees have seen a markedly worse salary development than any other group with basic degrees between 1989 and 2008. … Among PhDs as well the humanities graduates have lower annual incomes than any other specialisation … humanities PhDs have worse annual incomes than business majors, physicians, engineers, dentists and lawyers with basic degrees. … relatively fewer humanities PhDs have very low salaries than other PhDs.” pp. 52-56

“We have compared humanities PhDs with basic-degree humanities graduates … we find that a PhD does lead to a higher annual income as expected, but the difference is less than 4%.” p. 56

“… annual income of PhDs in various subjects … the most notable change is that the annual incomes of social scientists, which were previously [1989] on about the same level as for the humanities, now [2008] have risen visibly. … This is another indication that humanities graduates have lagged behind in their incomes.” p. 57

So the good news is that if you do a PhD in the humanities, then chances are you will not become one of the country’s absolutely worst-paid PhDs. But then, nor will you be able to compete with the income of a generic MBA suit.


  1. #1 Steven Blowney
    The Municipality of Oz
    August 15, 2012

    Is this only counting those humanities Phds. with jobs in their fields, or with any sort of job?

  2. #2 Martin R
    August 15, 2012

    Everybody including the unemployed.

  3. #3 nick williams
    August 15, 2012

    That was my problem. I never gave in to the pressure bearing down on humanities graduates in Sweden to consider myself at the bottom of the food chain. It got me into quite a lot of trouble.

  4. #4 Mattias
    August 15, 2012

    One positive side-effect of this is that you need not question the sincerety of people within the humanities. All my friends from the private sector keep complaining that much resources are spent to single out the rare individuals who are passionate about what they do (since these supposedly perform better than those looking for high salaries).

  5. #5 Martin R
    August 16, 2012

    Are there any professionally passionate accountants and inventory managers?

  6. #6 Thomas Ivarsson
    August 16, 2012

    Economics, Business Administration and IT still belongs to HR in Swedish Universities?

    In these areas you can get a well paid job.

    It is very sad to see how underpaid nurses and teachers are in Sweden!

  7. #7 Mattias
    August 16, 2012

    Surely, there are such proffesionals.

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    August 17, 2012

    Have you never read Ayn Rand? The markets will ensure everything is perfect. If humanities scholars are not in demand it is because humanities are unimportant. And if some starve to death it is only because they were lazy (sarcasm).

  9. #9 Birger Johansson
    August 17, 2012

    (OT) Hobbit-village planned for Stockholm island http://www.thelocal.se/42676/20120817/

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