Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Information for Specific Humanities Disciplines
 
English Language and Literature Degree Completions
(Updated April 2016)

Degree completions at all levels in English language and literature (ELL) experienced a surge in the 1960s before declining dramatically through the early 1980s. Completion numbers recovered substantially in the 1990s and remained high during the first decade of the 21st century, but the number of degrees began to fall again after 2009.

Findings and Trends

  • The number of ELL undergraduate and graduate degrees fell from 2012 to 2014—by 7.5% at the baccalaureate level, 6.3% at the master’s level, and 2.3% at the doctorate level (Indicators II-18a, II-18b, and II-18c).
  • The early 1970s were a golden period for undergraduate and graduate programs in English language and literature. Degree programs at all levels were graduating more students than at any other time over the five decades for which data exist. By the mid-to-late 1980s, however, the number of degrees in English had declined by over 50% at each level of degree.
  • Beginning in the early 2000s, the trend in doctoral degree completions in English began to differ from that observed at the other degree levels. In contrast to fairly steady increases in the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees during the early 2000s, the number of new English Ph.D.’s fell slightly through much of the decade before a modest increase from 2007 to 2012.
  • After the mid-1980s, the number of English degrees rose substantially, but so did the number of degrees conferred in all fields. Consequently, the discipline’s share of all degrees fell at all three degree levels. At the baccalaureate level, the share of degrees conferred in English fell to 2.8% in 2014—the lowest point on record. The share of master’s degrees awarded in the discipline also hit a new low in 2014 (1.1%). Only at the doctoral level was the share in 2014 slightly above the previous low (2.1% as compared to a nadir of 2.0% in 2007).
II-18a: Bachelor’s Degree Completions in English Language and Literature (Absolute Number and as a Percentage of All Bachelor’s Degrees), 1967–2014*

* The gaps in the trend lines for 1987 indicate a shift from the National Science Foundation’s disciplinary classification system to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate the Number of Degree Completions in English Language and Literature and in Languages and Literatures Other than English for an explanation of the differences between the two systems that are most pertinent to this indicator. Degree counts and shares do not include second majors.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-18b: Master’s Degree Completions in English Language and Literature (Absolute Number and as a Percentage of All Master’s and First Professional Degrees), 1967–2014*

* The gaps in the trend lines for 1987 indicate a shift from the National Science Foundation’s disciplinary classification system to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate the Number of Degree Completions in English Language and Literature and in Languages and Literatures Other than English for an explanation of the differences between the two systems that are most pertinent to this indicator. Degree counts and shares do not include second majors.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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II-18c: Doctoral Degree Completions in English Language and Literature (Absolute Number and as a Percentage of All Doctorates), 1967–2014*

* The gaps in the trend lines for 1987 indicate a shift from the National Science Foundation’s disciplinary classification system to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate the Number of Degree Completions in English Language and Literature and in Languages and Literatures Other than English for an explanation of the differences between the two systems that are most pertinent to this indicator. Degree counts and shares do not include second majors.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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