Your BFF and your mom would be the first to tell you you’re natural in any job related to talking a lot, so maybe you should consider linguistics. Linguistics is the study of language, according to the Linguistics Society of America. Some linguists even work on issues such as developing non-sexist language, according to the LSA.
One Field, Many Occupations
People with degrees in linguistics could be teachers, often of English or of English as a Second Language. Some linguistics graduates teach languages other than English, such as Arabic, Spanish or Chinese. Others might work in the field of computer programming on topics such as speech recognition or artificial intelligence. Translators and interpreters might also have linguistics degrees, according to the LSA. Of course, you’ll also need to be fluent in the language, which might mean additional training unless you grew up with a second language at home. Linguists could also be or train actors or work as copy editors, language consultants or for the FBI.
Linguistics in the Information World
With such a broad range of career possibilities, figuring out which area of linguistics offers the best pay could be difficult. Take linguists who work in the computer world. They could be programmers, software developers or computer research scientists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports computer programmers earned an average annual salary of $78,260 in 2012. Software developers who worked on applications made $93,280, and those who worked in systems software earned $102,550. Computer research scientists topped the list in this group with an average salary of $103,670.
Careers that heavily involve linguistics include editors, teachers and some FBI agents. Editors earned $62,442 in 2012, according to the BLS. The BLS doesn’t report actors’ salaries as an annual figure because they don’t work year-round, but the average hourly wage was $35.97 in 2012. If an actor did work at that salary full time, her annual salary would be approximately $74,817. English teachers in postsecondary schools earned $67,980, and those who taught foreign languages in postsecondary schools took home $66,730. FBI agents are paid according to experience, responsibility and tenure, according to the FBI website, in a system that has multiple steps and grades. Salaries for FBI agents in 2014 could be as high as $130,810.
Speak the Language
Some linguists work directly in the field of language. Interpreters and translators took home $53,410 in 2012, according to the BLS. The career resources website Indeed offers data on linguists whose specialty is a particular language. Spanish linguists earned $57,000 in 2014, while Chinese linguists earned $65,000. Arabic linguists earned an average annual salary of $71,000 in 2014. However, Indeed notes that salaries for Pashto-Dari linguists could be as high as $234,000. Pashto and Dari are the major languages of Afghanistan.
- Linguistics Society of America: Women’s Issues
- Linguistics Society of America: Why Major in Linguistics?
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- Office of Personnel Management: Salary Table 2014-Gs: Incorporating the 1% General Schedule Increase -- Effective January 2014
- Indeed: Arabic Linguist
- Indeed: Spanish Linguist
- Indeed: Chinese Linguist
- Indeed: Linguist
- California State University East Bay: Pasto and Dari Courses
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.