How to Become a Linguistics Professional: Educational Requirements

Find out what education you need to become a linguistics professional, what professional areas you can enter, and what your salary and job outlook may be. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Linguistics professionals can work across a number of career fields, such as in academia, as translators and interpreters, or in language education. Learn more about three popular careers you can pursue as a linguist, and what education you need to get into the field.

Postsecondary Teachers Translators and Interpreters Language Instructors
Degree required PhD Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Educational field Linguistics, languages, literature Foreign languages, linguistics, subjects in translation and interpreting, communications Foreign languages, linguistics, comparative literature, education
Licensure or Certification Varies by employer Accreditation by professional association Varies by employer
Job Growth (2016-2026) 15%* 18%* 10-14% (foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary)**
Median Annual Salary (2017) $76,000* $47,190 * $65,010 (foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine

What Do Linguists Do?

Linguists are scientists who research languages and their functions. They study the structure of language, the changes it underwent throughout history, and the phonetic and grammatical specifics. They research how sound is produced and look at the way children and adults learn languages, including the neural pathways used in that process. Linguists also research how language and culture interact and affect each other.

What Areas Can I Work In?

Linguistics professionals can work in a wide range of fields. With additional training and strong skills in a language other than English, you can become a translator or interpreter, either doing general translation or interpretation or specializing in areas such as legal, medical, or business.

Linguists can also pursue higher education and work as academics, sharing their passion for language with students, as well as conducting research and releasing their findings in academic publications and at conferences. You might work in departments such as linguistics, philosophy, communication or anthropology.

As a linguist with deep insight into the way humans acquire language, you can also become a language instructor, either teaching English as a second language in the USA or abroad, or instructing students in a foreign language.

However, there are many further career options, such as working in artificial intelligence and speech recognition or computer-mediated language learning, training actors in specific accents, or even finding employment with various government agencies that require language professionals. Departments seeking linguists include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What Education Do I Need to Become a Linguistics Professional?

To become a linguistics professional, you need at least a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate programs offer subjects on the history of language, human acquisition, as well as phonetics and phonology, giving students deep insight into the way that humans learn and use language.

Further education will depend on the career path you wish to pursue. Academics who wish to teach at universities tend to need a PhD in their chosen specialization, such as a PhD in linguistics.

Those wanting to work as foreign language instructors are typically expected to hold a master's degree.

What Additional Certification Do I Need?

Certification requirements vary depending on the career you wish to pursue. Translators and interpreters have to pass additional tests in order to become accredited in their profession. The American Translator's Association (ATA) offers translator certifications, and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators offers certification for legal translation specialists.

To become either a foreign language teacher or an academic teaching linguistics, additional certification requirements vary depending on the state and educational institution you wish to teach in.

What Income and Job Growth Can I Expect?

The expected job growth for linguistics professional is above average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS), demand for postsecondary teachers is expected to rise 15% between 2016 and 2026, while the increase for translators and interpreters is forecast at 18%. O*NET OnLine indicated that the job growth for postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers is projected to be 10-14% between 2016 and 2026.

Meanwhile the median annual salary was $76,000 for postsecondary teachers and $47,190 for translators and interpreters as of 2017, according to the BLS. The median salary for postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers was $65,010 at that time.

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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