Career Opportunities in Linguistics

CNN reports that linguistics is one of the 10 overlooked majors that can get you a job

"Linguistics majors study language -- its structure, how it's acquired, how people use it, its history, etc. As globalization continues as an emerging trend in business, those with a linguistics background will become more valued in several fields." See Full Article

An M.A. in linguistics is a recognized asset for careers within social and behavioral sciences, especially those concerned with language policies and practices in multilingual settings as well as in the following professions from the Linguistics Society of America's Website:

With a degree in Linguistics, graduates can seek careers in such fields as:

  • Work in the Computer Industry. Training in linguistics can equip you to work on speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and computer-mediated language learning.
  • Work in education. People with a background in linguistics and education can develop materials for different populations, train teachers, design assessments, find effective ways to teach language- related topics in specific communities, or use the language of a community effectively in instruction. Many applied linguists are involved in teacher education and educational research.
  • Teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in the United States or abroad. If you want to teach ESL in the US, you will probably need additional training in language pedagogy, such as credentials in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL). Many teaching positions abroad require only an undergraduate degree, but at least some specialized training in the subject will make you a much more effective teacher. Linguistics can give you a valuable cross-language perspective.
  • Teach at the university level. Teach in departments such as Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Speech/Communication Sciences, Anthropology, English, and departments focused on specific foreign languages. 
  • Work as a translator or interpreter. Skilled translators and interpreters are needed everywhere, from government to hospitals to courts of law. For this line of work, a high level of proficiency in the relevant language(s) is necessary, and additional specialized training may be required. 
  • Work on language documentation or conduct fieldwork. Some agencies and institutes seek linguists to work with language consultants in order to document, analyze, and preserve languages (many of which are endangered). Some organizations engage in language-related fieldwork, conducting language surveys, establishing literacy programs, and translating documents of cultural heritage.
  • Teach a foreign language. Your students will benefit from your knowledge of language structure and your ability to make certain aspects of the language especially clear. You will need to be very proficient in the relevant language, and you may need additional training in language pedagogy. 
  • Work in the publishing industry, as a technical writer, or as a journalist. The verbal skills that linguists develop are ideal for positions in editing, publishing, and writing.
  • Work for a testing agency. Linguists help prepare and evaluate standardized exams and conduct research on assessment issues. 
  • Work with dictionaries (lexicography). The development of good dictionaries requires the help of qualified linguistic consultants. Knowledge of phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics is key to becoming a lexicographer.
  • Become a consultant on language in professions such as law or medicine. The subfield of forensic linguistics involves studying the language of legal texts, linguistic aspects of evidence, issues of voice identification, and so on. Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and police departments, law firms, and the courts hire linguists for these purposes. 
  • Work for an advertising company. Companies that specialize in advertising often do extensive linguistic research on the associations that people make with particular sounds and classes of sounds and the kind of wording that would appeal to potential consumers.
  • Work for the government. The federal government hires linguists for the Foreign Service, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and so on. Similar opportunities may exist at the state level.
  • Become an actor or train actors. Actors need training in pronunciation, intonation, and different elements of grammar in order to sound like real speakers of a language or dialect. They may even need to know how to make mistakes to sound like an authentic non-native speaker.