More bad news for arts students -- a humanities PhD isn't worth the costs

MathematicsDean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty ImagesPhDs in mathematics have big financial returns.

Doing a PhD or Doctorate in Humanities subjects doesn’t give a worthwhile return on their cost, according to salary benchmark site Emolument.com.

It analysed 23,866 graduate salaries with five to nine years of post-degree professional experience.

The research shows that Bachelor, Masters and PhD graduates in Humanities — who studied History, Geography Philosophy or Politics — all end up on the same salary, suggesting Masters and PhD students did not see a return on their investment.

In fact, PhD graduates in these subjects earn less on average — £40,000 ($58,000) — than Masters students, who earn £44,000 ($64,000).

Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences and Healthcare PhD’s also don’t do much to raise pay, with just a £4,000 ($5,800) difference.

Conversely, PhD or Doctorates in Maths, Computer Sciences, Law, and Psychology graduates earn much more than those who only did Masters in the subjects.

PhDs in Mathematics and Statistics earn twice as Bachelor degrees alone — £112,000 ($162,000) — with 78% of PhDs graduates working in the financial and consulting industries.

Meanwhile, PhDs in computer sciences command bigger salaries as graduates are more likely “to develop new products and perform when trading complex instruments.”

PhD salary figures were unavailable for English Literature, but Masters students saw a slight growth to £41,000 ($59,000) over Bachelor students, who earned £35,000 ($51,000) on average.

Alice Leguay, COO and co-founder of Emolument, said that while many benefit from staying in academia, the financial returns should be taken into consideration. She says:

Our study shows that there are two very different paths when it comes to PhD graduates’ return on investment: on the one hand, technical subjects can open doors in the top-end of the finance industry, and on the other a more academic humanities-related degree is unlikely to lead to an uptick in pay.

With this knowledge in hand, the relevant question is: is it worth it for you?

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