Careers in Linguistics

Linguistics exists at a unique cross-roads of the humanities, the social sciences, and the physical sciences. Students who minor in linguistics are thus able to move in many directions after graduation, working in any field in which attention is paid explicitly to language. 

Linguistics majors have frequently found work in communications, communication disorders, speech and reading therapy, pre-school and elementary education, language teaching, the teaching of English, law, philosophy, and psychology. Linguistics also plays a major role in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, machine translation, and computer speech synthesis and recognition. Linguists are also a driving force in improving written or oral communication, such as developing ways for bureaucracies like the Social Security Administration or insurance companies to communicate better with clients, or help doctors communicate more effectively with patients.

Linguist Career Areas

The following are just a few examples of careers open to linguists:

Computational Linguistics: machine translation, natural language processing (NLP), text-to-speech synthesis and speech recognition, information retrieval, knowledge engineering, and artificial intelligence.

Advertising: inventing and testing new product names and slogans.

Counseling: Linguistic notions of how conversation works are crucial in all forms of counseling and social work.

Criminal investigation and forensics: linguists have contributed to capturing the Unabomber, identifying or ruling out suspects, and have testified in court as expert witnesses. The FBI occasionally advertises for linguists.

Educational Testing Services (ETS) and other testing agencies need linguists to design tests.

Entertainment: Actors who are good at accents can be helped by a knowledge of linguistics; another possible career is as a dialect coach, who helps actors sound authentic for their roles.

Accent reduction for non-native speakers or speakers of stigmatized dialects who wish to alter their speech.

Military/Intelligence: foreign language teaching, translation, and cryptography. The CIA and the National Security Administration occasionally recruit linguists.

Missionary: Bible translators rely heavily on linguistic fieldwork for their missionary work.

K-12 education: Linguistics training is important to teachers of reading, English, languages, and special education

Higher education: Students who go on to a PhD in linguistics can teach linguistics at the university level or use their interests in language to study and teach English, languages, psychology, education, communication, anthropology, sociology, computation, or engineering.