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Learn About Linguistics and How to Pursue a Career as a Linguist

Perhaps one of the most fascinating college majors is that of linguistics. This subject is the study of language and how it affects so many different aspects of human life. History itself can be traced through language, and the way that humans select their individual words reflects a lot about their psychology.

It is a subject that touches each person on at least the basic level, and it can be an incredibly interesting thing to study.

If this sounds like something you would like to consider for your college education and your future career, then uncover more about the degrees available, how to prepare for a career in the field, what kind of education is required, average salaries and the job market outlook for the years ahead.

Quick Facts: Liberal Arts Industry
Median Pay:   $63,575 per year | $31 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   183,000

Liberal Arts Occupations:

  • Chemistry teachers, postsecondary$73,080
  • Environmental science teachers, postsecondary$77,470
  • English language and literature teachers, postsecondary$60,160
  • Interpreters and translators$43,590

Degrees Available in the Field

If you are interested in becoming a linguist, then earning a college degree in the field is the ultimate way to prepare. There are several degree options available, but there is no doubt that the most common choice is the bachelor's degree.

This four-year undergraduate degree is what many employers in the field ask for when hiring new applicants, and it can prepare students for the majority of linguistic careers.

However, a bachelor's degree is not the only option available. Aspiring linguistic professionals that want to find related work quickly can choose to earn an associate degree, which is made up of just 60 credits and can typically be completed in less than two years. In order to secure one of the highest-level careers with the most impressive salaries in linguistics, earning a master's degree or even a doctorate may be a better fit for some students.

Typical Subjects Encountered While Earning Your Degree

Regardless of which degree you opt to pursue, studying in the linguistic field will cover some of the same courses for every student.

A few of the subjects you should expect to come across on your syllabus include approaches to language study, English as a foreign language, the pragmatics of language, gender differences in language, semantics, syntax and language structure.

At the advanced level, some students may even cover the history of language and its roots in Latin and Greek.

Average Salary For A Linguist

Trying to pinpoint the average salary for a linguistic professional is a challenge because the types of employment can vary so substantially.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which classifies a linguist as a type of anthropologist, the average salary in the United States for a linguist is $57,420 per year.

Since this salary is merely a median figure, there is plenty of potential for upward growth with experience and education beyond the bachelor's level.

Job Outlook For the Industry as a Whole

While linguists may have their eyes on the past and a strong interest in history, it is also important to look to the future when choosing a potential career. Job outlook can only be estimated, but organizations like the Bureau of Labor Statistics use relevant data to create forecasts for job demand that tend to be accurate.

They estimate that between today and 2022, the job demand for linguist professionals will rise by 19 percent, a figure that is much higher than the average growth for careers.

An impressive job growth forecast is great news for anyone thinking about this field for their future, because it often translates to a greater number of job opportunities, the potential for higher salaries and more competitive contracts during the hiring process.

Specific Careers to Pursue After Graduation

Working as a linguist is a vague term, but most professionals in the field will have a way to apply their knowledge to a more practical field.

Some linguistic professionals work with archeologists, historians and anthropologists to study past languages and learn more about a civilization's history and culture by the words they used in everyday speech as well as in written texts.

If you are interested in a more contemporary way to utilize your skills in the field, you might want to consider becoming a language teacher. This might involve teaching a second language like Spanish or French in high schools, or it could mean moving abroad to a foreign country and teaching English as a second language to business professionals there.

Other related careers in the field are translators, interpreters, speech language pathologists, forensic linguists or dialect coaches. Ultimately, the best career fit will depend on your personal interests and whether you prefer research-based work or one-on-one sessions with students and clients.

Attributes of the Best Linguistic Professionals

Linguists might need to start with a degree, but simply having the right education won't always be enough to ensure that you have a successful and rewarding career in the field. Many of the best linguistic professionals in the world have incredible communication skills, and you should be comfortable writing and speaking if you opt for this major and this career path. Additionally, you should have some experience speaking a foreign language.

Top linguistic professionals often have a lifelong interest in languages, and they may have strong opinions on grammar, spelling and syntax. If you love words, reading and history, then this is likely a suitable career path for your future. Additionally, if you want to help others improve their language abilities, linguistic work could be ideal.

In order to become a linguist, a bachelor's degree in the subject is a smart place to start. From there, earning an additional graduate degree may help increase your earning potential and the selection of jobs that you are eligible for.

This field is large and encompasses countless different careers, and it is up to each individual to decide whether they would prefer to study ancient languages, speech pathology in a medical environment or how to teach languages to foreign students. Learn more about earning a liberal arts degree such as the study of language.