What Can I Do with a Degree in Linguistics?

Linguists are interested in the sets of structures that put thought into sentence form. Graduates of linguistics programs often put their interests to work in the fields of teaching, translation, research, business, and computers. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Linguistics Overview

When you enter a linguistics degree program, you'll study human language - where it comes from, how language systems are formed in the brain, its uses in social contexts, and more. Linguistics has several subfields, including the study of speech sounds and semantics (phonetics), as well as the study of the meaning of long sentences or single words.

Important Facts About These Careers

Teachers (Adult Literacy and GED) Computer Professionals (Software Developers) Interpreters/Translators
Median Annual Salary (2018) $53,630 $105,590 $49,930
Job Outlook (2016-2026) -5% decline 24% growth 18% growth
Key Skills Patience, cultural sensitivity, and communication skills Creativity, analytical, and problem-solving skills Cultural sensitivity, concentration, listening, and speaking skills
Similar Occupations Instructional coordinator, social worker, teacher assistant Computer programmer, information security analyst, web developer Special education teacher, adult literacy teacher, technical writer

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Careers for Degree Holders

Many fields of study and businesses place an emphasis on communication. With the training you receive in a linguistics degree program, you could work in one of these fields, contributing to the understanding of how communication functions and how to improve it. The type of linguistics positions you'll be qualified to apply for will depend on the amount of formal education you've had; holding a bachelor's degree will make you eligible for entry-level positions in business or computer fields, while higher-level positions, especially those in teaching and research, will usually go to those who hold master's or doctoral degrees.

Teacher

Your degree in linguistics will prepare you for teaching positions, especially those in speech or language acquisition. As a bachelor's degree holder, you might work as an English-as-a-second-language teacher or foreign language teacher in the public school system. As a doctoral or master's degree holder, you might be able to find work as a linguistics teacher in an institution of higher learning. Entering the teaching field could require you to obtain licensing or certification.

Computer Professional

According to the Linguistic Society of America, you'd be qualified for entry-level positions in the computer industry if you held a bachelor's degree in linguistics (www.lsadc.org). Work might include creating software programs that allow computers to understand or create speech, advancing the understanding of artificial intelligence and its communication possibilities, or improving the languages that allow search engines to function.

Translator or Interpreter

You'll need to be proficient in another language to work in the fields of translation or interpretation, but as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, you don't necessarily have to earn your degree in a foreign language to qualify for such jobs (www.bls.gov). A linguistics degree program will give you a strong foundation in the science behind human communication, which could help you overcome the misunderstandings that arise between speakers of different languages. Careers in these two fields are often found in government agencies, although positions can be found in the private sector as well.

Linguistics Careers vs. Foreign Language Careers

While it might be easy to assume that linguistics degree programs are similar to foreign language degree programs, they're actually of a different nature. In a linguistics degree program, you'll study the science of language, while in a foreign language program, you'll become proficient in a specific language. Those with linguistics training can pursue many careers with foreign language requirements. To prepare yourself for these careers, you might take extra foreign language courses while earning your linguistics degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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