Looking for facts about foreign language and linguistics majors in the United States? You’ve come to the right place. This page contains statistics on enrollment, gender distribution, employment, and income.
There are approximately 778,400 graduates of foreign languages and linguistics programs in America’s workforce today. 22% of them work in roles relating to education and library sciences, making them a big part of learning institutions.
Enrollment statistics for foreign languages and linguistics majors
Approximately 17,000 bachelor’s degrees were conferred for foreign languages and linguistics in 2018. This number was at its highest in 2013, and has since dropped—although not as low as in the 1980s, when graduation rates were at their lowest.
The majority of degrees conferred to foreign languages and linguistics grads are bachelor’s degrees. However, these grads earn graduate degrees at a relatively high rate. Over 20% of degrees are at the graduate level.
Here is the breakdown by percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics:
- Bachelor’s degrees conferred: 79.1%
- Master’s degrees conferred: 15.2%
- Doctoral degrees conferred: 5.7%
The gender breakdown for foreign languages and linguistics degrees is straightforward as well. 67.9% of all graduates in these programs are female, and 32.1% of graduates are male. This accounts for all three levels of degrees (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral).
That gender distribution stays very close to that ratio for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Doctoral degrees have a slightly different distribution, with 41.8% of PhDs in foreign languages and linguistics being male—higher than the average of 32.1% for all levels of academic attainment.
This is the gender distribution for each level of academic attainment:
- Bachelor’s degree recipients: 68.8% female, 31.2% male.
- Master’s degree recipients: 66.8% female, 33.2% male.
- Doctoral degree recipients: 58.2% female, 41.8% male.
Employment statistics for foreign languages and linguistics majors
Foreign languages and linguistics graduates number 778,400 people in the American workforce. Only 17% of them are linguistics graduates.
The vast majority of foreign languages majors in America study French, German, and Latin-based languages—66% of all foreign languages and linguistics grads, to be precise.
Although they have a middling unemployment rate of 3.3% immediately after college, foreign languages and linguistics grads have a high underemployment rate in the same phase of life, at 47.4%.
This is consistent with most other humanities programs, which typically do not provide job-specific training or career preparation.
That doesn’t mean these grads hold bad jobs, though.
Foreign languages and linguistics grads do tend to gravitate toward roles in education. Surprisingly, only 1% of these grads end up in roles as interpreters or translators.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sampled 33% of these graduates and found these to the the top 10 most common occupations:
- Post-secondary Teachers (7%)
- Elementary Teachers (6%)
- High School Teachers (5%)
- Lawyers (4%)
- Managers (4%)
- Education Administrators (2%)
- Physicians (2%)
- Secretaries (2%)
- Chief Executives (1%)
- Interpreters and Translators (1%)
Those are just the most commonly held jobs, though—they only account for 32% of all graduates sampled. That means 68% of those graduates built careers with different roles.
To get a wider sense of where foriegn languages and linguistics grads work, we can take a look at these categories outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well.
Here’s where these graduates tend to work:
- Educational instruction and library occupations (22%)
- Management occupations (15%)
- Business and financial operations occupations (9%)
- Office and administrative support occupations (9%)
- Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (7%)
- Other (39%)
This gives us a wider sense of where graduates work, but 39% of them still work in other industries or types of roles altogether. This suggests that career trajectories for languages and linguistics grads are non-linear.
Salary statistics for foreign languages and linguistics majors
Foreign languages and linguistics majors make an average of $54,000 per year. This puts them in the middle of the pack for earning power among humanities majors.
However, that’s just an average. Data from the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project shows that income for these grads rises fairly steadily over time, reaching a peak earning power of $75,000 on average.
It’s also worth noting that the study was from 2014. Considering inflation, that $75,000 in 2014 would be closer to $86,000 in 2022.