Looking for English major statistics that will show you how they fare in the job market and beyond? You’ve come to the right place. This fact sheet will show you what enrollment looks like, which jobs they occupy, and what kind of salaries they earn. These stats come from top sources that your professor would approve of, too.
It’s exactly the kind of data you need to make an informed choice about starting a degree or making the most of one after graduation.
Facts about English majors
One of the most striking facts about English majors is the enrollment data. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the total number of English bachelor’s degrees conferred annually has fallen by 31.5% in the United States between 2008, the start of the Great Recession, and 2020.
The highest number of bachelor’s degrees conferred in one year was 63,914 in 1971, according to the NCES records. There were 38,036 degrees conferred in 2019, a 40.5% drop from 1971. You can see the dramatic dips in the line chart below.
These other quick facts about English majors can tell you about the scope of today’s programs:
- There are 3,359 English programs throughout the United States. (BLS)
- 39,335 bachelor’s degrees in English were conferred in the United States in 2019.
- 8,217 master’s degrees in English were conferred in the United States in 2019.
- 1,274 doctoral degrees in English were conferred in the United States in 2019.
Check out this chart to see how those degrees break down by type and sex in the United States in 2019, according to the NCES.
|English bachelor’s degrees||English master’s degrees||English doctoral degrees|
One of the other little-known facts about being an English major is that you don’t have to study literature exclusively, depending on the program. 92% of students in this program do study literature, but 8% study composition and rhetoric.
English major employment statistics
Here you’ll find the most popular jobs that English majors hold, their most common industries, and things like their unemployment (and underemployment) rate.
Here are the quick employment statistics:
- More than 1,717,00 English majors exist in the U.S. workforce.
- 21% of English majors are employed part-time.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the ten most commonly held jobs of English majors.
|Job for English Major||% of English grads in job||Job growth, 2020 – 2030|
|Authors or creative writers||2%||+9%|
|High school teachers||4%||+8%|
|Elementary school teachers||6%||+7%|
|Personal service managers||4%||+7%|
|Secretaries or assistants||2%||-8%|
One of the most surprising job statistics about English majors is that only 2% of them become authors or creative writers in the United States. That’s the same likelihood as becoming a chief executive. Equally surprising is that only 2% become editors, even though an English degree is supposed to be a perfect for the publishing industry.
Also worth noting is that 5% of English majors become lawyers.
Here you can see the most popular categories of roles in which English majors work:
- Education and libraries: 22%
- Management occupations: 16%
- Arts, design, media, and entertainment: 9%
- Offices and administration roles: 9%
- Business and finance: 8%
- Other: 36%
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has also recorded interesting statistics about English majors’ employment rates.
- Unemployment rate: 4.5%
- Underemployment rate: 52.5%
That’s a staggering underemployment rate. More than half of graduates with English degrees work in roles that don’t meet their level of qualifications.
What’s interesting here is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61% of English majors also work in roles that require a bachelor’s degree. The answer might lie in grad school: 45-46% of English majors in the U.S. hold an advanced degree, which could render many roles below the expected pay grade of anyone with a professional designation or a master’s degree (both the BLS and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York cite this number).
English major salary statistics
One of the most important English major facts: what do they earn? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of an English major is $51,000 USD.
That’s on the low end of humanities programs. Here’s how that number compares to similar fields (also from the BLS):
- Archaeology and anthropology median salary: $66,000
- Political science median salary: $64,000
- History median salary: $60,000
- Philosophy and religious studies median salary: $55,000
- Law median salary: $53,000
- English median salary: $51,000
- Visual and performing arts median salary: $42,000
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has some additional insights, however. Its research shows that English majors earn a median salary of $35,000 on in their early careers, but reach $60,000 at peak career.
The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project has even more granular data, as you can see in the line graph above. Here’s what it says about the median English major salary over the course of 25 years.
|Year of Career||Median Salary in USD|
With this data you can decide on pursuing this major, or you can assess your career outlook if you’ve already committed to an English program. With a median salary of $51,000 and a strong presence in secure industries (like education, law, and management services), your future will be bright.
Looking for specific jobs you can fill? Check out the rest of the Employed Historian blog for roles that fit your skill set.