The undergraduate major in linguistics will provide you with a solid background in the core areas of linguistics as an academic discipline, in at least two languages, and in linguistically relevant areas of neighboring fields. Perhaps more importantly, it will build up your skills in analytic reasoning and argumentation, writing, and observation. Linguistics is therefore an appropriate major not just for students planning to pursue academic careers in linguistics itself, but also for those seeking careers in any area where such skills may be of value.
Some typical careers for linguistics majors include:
- Work in the computer industry. Linguists may work on speech synthesis, text processing, search engines, artificial intelligence, and in many other computational areas where the analysis of speech and language plays a role. Students planning careers in this area are advised to combine their linguistics major with appropriate computational training, such as a minor or double major in computer science.
- Language teaching. Many linguistics majors go on to teach English to speakers of other languages, or to teach other languages in which they have expertise. Students pursuing a career in language teaching may wish to combine the linguistics major with a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language.
- Translation and interpreting. Students with strong skills in a particular language may pursue a career translating or interpreting that language. Translators and interpreters are needed for business, diplomatic, and national security purposes; in courtroom and medical settings; and in a variety of other circumstances. Students pursuing a career in translation and interpreting may wish to combine the linguistics major with a Certificate in Translation Studies.
- Academic research and teaching. Linguistics is primarily an academic field, and many linguistics students pursue careers in academia — either in linguistics itself, or in related fields such as anthropology or speech and hearing science. Most work of this kind requires a Ph.D., so start thinking about graduate school early.
- Law. With its emphasis on careful argumentation and analysis, and attention to the details of language use and interpretation, a linguistics major is highly appropriate for students planning to continue on to law school. Be sure to consult early with Prelaw Advising Services.
- Publishing and editing. Many linguistics majors pursue careers in the publishing industry.
For more ideas and information, see the Linguistic Society of America's pamphlet Why Major in Linguistics?