What Is a Linguistic Specialist?

Linguists may specialize in translation, computer linguistics, forensic linguistics and more. Read on to discover what you might do with this career, what you can learn in a degree program and where you can receive specialized training. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Linguistic Specialist?

Linguistic specialists are trained in the area of linguistics, or the study of language. Depending on your specific interests, there are a variety of linguistic specialties that you may be interested in studying and practicing as a career - everything from military applications of linguistics to linguistic anthropology. As a linguist, you are likely to be involved in research and analysis, observation and information gathering, and critical thinking. These skills can be applied to a multitude of career paths. The table below provides some additional information:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; Master's or Doctoral preferred for some positions
Education Field of Study Linguistics, phonetics, foreign languages
Key Responsibilities Research words and phrases, translate and interpret language, understand how people use languages to communicate
Median Salary (2017)* $60,960

Source: *PayScale.com

What Does a Linguist Do?

As a practitioner of linguistics, you demonstrate an analytic understanding of languages in general; you may or may not be able to speak a second language. You may research the sounds, words and phrases of languages--how to represent them and how they interact. Using your scientific knowledge of languages, you might investigate how people acquire intuitive knowledge of their native language and how best to learn a second language. You could study how one or more languages vary from person to person or from region to region. You could even study computer programs and how they can imitate these processes.

What Types of Linguist Specialists Are There?

Linguistic specialists are linguists with a special focus. You could be a translator or interpreter with a variety of job options, including niche medical or legal roles. Or you could be a cryptologic linguist, a very important role in the military or our overseas government offices. In this job you would detect, collect, locate, identify and exploit communications from sources.

If computer science is one of your interests, you could consider becoming a computational linguist. In this capacity, you would look for ways to program the computer to translate documents from one language to another or to transform spoken words to written words and vice versa. This is closely related to and sometimes interchangeable with natural language processing.

Another choice would be a linguistic anthropologist; you would study the history, role of and changes in a language as related to its culture. As a forensic linguist, you would help solve crimes. If you were a neurolinguist, you might be in a position to discover solutions for children with specific language impairment or Autism Spectrum Disorders.

What Training Would I Need to Be a Linguist?

To become a linguist, you would need at least a bachelor's degree in linguistics. For some jobs, you might need a master's degree or a doctorate. This field of study spans phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics; sometimes, lessons cover language change. Other options that may be helpful or necessary, depending on your career goals as a linguistic specialist, include foreign language, ancient history, psychology, logic, anthropology or education classes.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Specialize?

Each kind of linguistic specialist mentioned above has its own training requirements. Most of them require a degree in linguistics, except some translator or interpreter jobs, which require only a facility in two or more languages. Many potential linguist careers require degrees in more than one subject.

The U.S. Army is one option for you to learn to be an interpreter or translator, although there are master's and doctoral degree programs in translation and interpretation. Additionally, translation is often a part of a degree in applied linguistics. However, the Army is about the only place where you can receive training as a cryptologic linguist.

You would need one or two college or graduate degrees for linguistics specialties such as forensic linguist, neurolinguist and computational linguist. The career titles suggest the names of the fields involved in addition to linguistics: criminal justice, neuroscience or computer science. Usually, you can get a degree in either field with specific coursework or a minor in the other. Occasionally, a single degree in the area is available.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may be interested in pursuing a career in teaching English, though your education will determine what you level of teaching you're eligible for. With a bachelor's degree, you could teach at the secondary, middle or elementary level, while a master's degree enables you to teach at the postsecondary level, usually at a 2-year college. A Ph.D. is typically needed for 4-year college and university positions. You could also focus specifically on teaching English as a second language if you are particularly interested in language acquisition.

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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