Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

What Can I Do with a Linguistics Degree?

3 minute read

Linguistics examines the science behind language and communication. Linguistics provides valuable skills for various fields, though professional options directly stemming from linguistics degrees are less discussed compared to majors like business or computer science. This blog post covers key career pathways to pursue with a linguistics education.

What are the career opportunities I can pursue? 

Here is a potential list of career paths for someone still considering what to do with a linguistics degree:

  • Linguistics Professor or Lecturer

  • Language Consultant for Businesses or Organizations

  • Computational Linguist

  • Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Lexicographer or Dictionary Editor

  • Translator or Interpreter

  • Natural Language Processing Specialist

  • Forensic Linguist

  • Linguistic Researcher

  • Educational Consultant for Language Curriculum

  • Speech Scientist

  • Cross-Cultural Communication Specialist

  • Localization Specialist in the tech or marketing industry

  • Phonetics Expert

  • Sociolinguist

  • Cognitive Psycholinguist

  • Historical Linguist

  • Grant Writer for language-related projects

  • Technical Writer or Documentation Specialist

  • Language Technology Developer

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What exactly do linguists study?

These are just a few examples, and a linguistics degree opens up diverse opportunities in areas such as education, research, technology, and communication. Primary domains of study include:

  • Phonetics and Phonology – How sounds and systems convey meaning 

  • Morphology – Word formation through components like prefixes and suffixes

  • Syntax – Rules for structuring sentences 

  • Semantics – Evolution of word/phrase meanings

  • Pragmatics – Social aspects impacting language us

  • Historical Linguistics – Language origins, change over time 

Pursuing Linguistics

Gaining experience while studying as a linguistics major through activities like internships, undergraduate research, foreign language development, and joining linguistics organizations helps build connections and skills for appealing career transitions after graduation.

While direct linguistics degree jobs exist in academia, government agencies, and the tech sector, applied work in education, multilingual services, writing, and analysis provide diverse options to apply linguistics competencies meaningfully. With open-mindedness and effort to expand capabilities, a linguistics degree equips graduates for impact in many vital and emerging fields.

Some examples of opportunities are below: 

1. Summer Institutes in Linguistics

Organizations like the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) host annual summer institutes, offering courses, workshops, and research opportunities for linguistics students and professionals.

2. Google AI Language Internship

Google's AI Language team offers internships for individuals interested in natural language processing, machine learning, and computational linguistics. This internship allows participants to work on cutting-edge projects in language technology.

3. Language Documentation and Conservation Internships

Various organizations and institutions, such as the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) or the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), offer internships focusing on language documentation and conservation.

4. Rosetta Project Internship (The Long Now Foundation)

The Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Project focuses on documenting and preserving endangered languages. Interns may work on digitizing linguistic materials, assisting with research, and contributing to language preservation efforts.

5. Microsoft Research Internship - Natural Language Processing

Microsoft Research provides internships in areas like natural language processing and computational linguistics. Interns collaborate with researchers on projects related to language technology.

6. Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Internship

The Smithsonian Institution offers internships focusing on linguistics, folklore, and cultural heritage. Interns may work on language-related projects and contribute to the documentation of cultural practices.

7. International Center for Language Studies (ICLS) Internship

ICLS was founded in 1966 to provide English as a Second Language (ESL) and foreign language training. It is located in Washington, D.C., offers internships that may include language teaching, curriculum development, and research in applied linguistics.

8. Pangloss Collection Internship 

The Pangloss Collection hosts recordings of little-documented languages, which for the most part are currently endangered. These documents are produced by professional linguists working to rescue the world’s linguistic diversity. Interns may contribute to the digitization and organization of linguistic resources.

Remember that the availability of these internships can vary, and it's essential to check with the respective organizations or institutions for the most current information. Additionally, universities with strong linguistics programs not only offer education from highly qualified foreign language teachers, but may also have partnerships with industry leaders and language consultants, providing students with access to notable internships in the field

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Interested in Literature and Languages? We'll match you with an expert mentor who will help you explore your next project.

Interesting Linguist projects from Polygence mentors

  • Polygence mentor Arnel is exploring philosophical questions of how and why people believe in what we do

  • Polygence mentor Karina’s research is in the intersection of memory and language through behavioral and fMRI studies. She’s especially interested in second language learning, and how memory mechanisms studied in cognitive neuroscience can help us better understand the difficulties of learning languages. 

  • Polygence mentor Cristina has a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard, and is passionate about using forensic linguistics and artificial intelligence, using statistical and machine learning methods to analyze text (e.g. suicide notes, threat notes) involved in crime.

How Can You Explore More Linguistics Career Paths Before College?

Through Polygence, middle and high school students can work with research mentors to learn about the variety of avenues they can choose to take with a degree in Spanish. For instance, mentor Jade A has deep expertise in linguistics and speaks Arabic, Spanish, French, Turkish, and German! Or, meet mentor Rachel W. With her, students can learn more about issues surrounding language and ideology, discrimination, language standardization, and social meanings behind the way people use language. If you’re not sure which area of specialization might be most interesting, you could try the Polygence Pathfinders career discovery program! This program is designed to help students explore career paths they are interested in. Program participants meet 1-on-1 with three expert mentors to receive personalized advice and guidance.

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