Linguistics is among the most interdisciplinary of fields, intersecting with areas as diverse as anthropology, computer science, engineering, foreign languages, neurology, philosophy, sociology, and the study of speech and hearing science. Fortunately for linguists, the study of languages relates to so many fields that there are a great many job opportunities, and they have a variety of duties.
If you are interested in language and love the college campus life, you can work as a linguist in academia as a teacher or researcher. While teaching loads and research responsibilities vary, most academic linguists stay busy teaching at least a couple of classes a semester and pursuing their research interests. However, tenure-track positions for professors of linguistics were tough to come by in the early 21st century. The positions that do exist typically require a significant body of original research and publication in peer-reviewed and well-known language-related academic journals.
If you are a linguist, you probably are fluent in one or more foreign languages. So it is not too surprising that quite a few linguists end up teaching languages as a career. The field of language teaching is very broad. Possibilities include post-secondary academic positions, working as a private tutor or being a consultant for software companies that are developing language-learning applications.
Computational Linguistics/Information Technology
Maybe you are good with computers. Computational linguists work to develop computational models of different types of linguistic phenomena. Their main duty is to write software to allow computers to emulate aspects of human language and thought. Computational linguists are an important part of the team in virtually all artificial-intelligence-related projects. The research of computational linguists was involved in the development of everyday technology such as speech recognition systems, text-to-speech synthesizers, automated voice response systems, web search engines, and text editors.
Becoming a translator or interpreter is another natural fit for someone with a background in foreign language and linguistics. A translator translates written documents from one language into another, and an interpreter translates oral speech orally. Many of the higher-paying jobs for translators and interpreters require certification by the American Translators Association or an equivalent body in another country, but globalization has led to a great deal of work for a second tier of uncertified, but much less expensive, translators and interpreters.
- The Ohio State University: What Can I do with a BA Degree with a Major in Linguistics
- University of California at Davis: Linguistics Careers: A Guide to Locating and Applying for Linguistics Jobs in Both the Academic and Private Sectors
- The Association for Computational Linguistics: What is Computational Linguistics?
- The Linguist List: Ask a Linguist FAQ
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.