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Humanities vs. Sciences: Who Earns More?

With UCAS application season in full swing, our analysis this week is on the prospects offered by different degrees. Specifically, we looked at the age-old rivalry between the Sciences and the Humanities, and answered the question: who earns the most?

The answer is: it depends when you ask.

In both the UK and the US, scientists enjoy a headstart on salaries, with higher earnings during the first 10 years of their careers. Technical skills and numeracy are clearly in short supply among graduate recruiters, and science students can demand greater remuneration for their degrees.However, this advantage tails off later in working life, and among professionals with more than 15 years of experience the trend is reversed, with humanities students coming out on top. Later on, the highest salaries go to managers and strategists: positions where technical knowledge is less crucial, and seeing the big picture is more important.

UK - All sectors
Years of Experience B.A. B.Sc. UK
0-5 years 35,000 37,000 5%
5-10 years 58,000 62,000 6%
10-15 years 85,000 75,000 -11%
15+ years 109,000 101,000 -7%

US - All sectors
Years of Experience B.A. B.Sc. Pay gap
0-5 years $72,000 $87,000 17%
5-10 years $94,000 $132,000 29%
10-15 years $133,000 $145,000 9%
15+ years $191,000 $177,000 -7%

There are also differences between the UK and the US:

The US value their scientists more in the earlier stages of their career: the pay gap begins at 17% in favour of scientists and rises to a formidable 29% for professionals with 5-10 years of experience, compared to much smaller figures in the UK. One explanation for this could be the higher salaries that IT and Tech workers in the US command (as discussed in our post on US vs. UK: The IT Pay Gap). UK humanities students also catch up with their scientist counterparts more quickly than in the US, overtaking them after only 10-15 years of work experience, compared to 15+ in the US.



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