What can I do with a major or minor in Linguistics?

Linguistics majors and minors come from a variety of different backgrounds and have diverse professional aims. Students with undergraduate concentrations in linguistics can prepare for graduate study in Linguistics, Psychology, Anthropology, and numerous other fields. They are also in an excellent position for embarking on training for careers in Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Corporate Communications, Education, English as a Second Language Instruction, International Business, International Communications, International Diplomacy, Health Communication, Journalism, K-12 Education and Curriculum Development, Law, Library Management, Medicine, Public Health, Public Relations, Social Services, Speech and Learning Disabilities, Therapy, and Translation.

Career Opportunities

(list compiled by Linguistics Society of America, www.lsadc.org)

Computer industry
Linguists may work on speech recognition, search engines, and artificial intelligence.

Teach at the university level
A graduate degree in linguistics allows you to teach in departments such as linguistics, philosophy, psychology, speech/communication sciences, anthropology, English, and foreign languages.

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 a Masters degree in Education or 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 crosslanguage perspective.

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 specialized training may be required. Nonetheless, linguistics can help you understand the issues that arise when a message is communicated from one language to another.

Language documentation or fieldwork
A number of projects and institutes around the world are looking for linguists to work with language consultants to document, analyze, and preserve languages (many of which are endangered). Some organizations engage in language-related fieldwork, including documenting endangered languages, conducting language surveys, establishing literacy programs, and translating documents of cultural heritage. This is a great way to interact with speakers of diverse languages, representing communities around the world.

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.

Publishing industry, as a technical writer, or a journalist
The verbal skills that linguists develop are ideal for positions in editing, publishing, and writing.

Testing agencies
Linguists help prepare and evaluate standardized exams and conduct research on assessment issues.

Dictionaries (lexicography)
Knowledge of phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics is key to becoming a lexicographer.

Work for a product-naming company
Companies that name products do extensive linguistic research on the associations that people make with particular sounds and classes of sounds. A background in linguistics qualifies you for this line of work.

The federal government hires linguists for the Foreign Service, the FBI, etc.

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 nonnative speaker.

For more information on careers and other job listings, including academic jobs, visit these web sites:

Linguistic Society of America
Center for Applied Linguistics