Employment Prospects


While private companies and federal government agencies employ some linguists, most linguists conduct their work at colleges and universities. In fact, colleges and universities employ more linguists than all other employers combined. In addition, the Linguistic Society of America reports that opportunities in the private sector include foreign-language advertising and multicultural marketing support (for international corporations), text-to-speech development (performed by technology firms such as Apple, Amazon, and Google), machine translation, artificial intelligence development, and linguistic advocacy (documenting endangered languages). Those without doctoral degrees can find work with community colleges and special programs offering English as a second language courses.

Some linguists work as interpreters and translators, teachers of English as a Second Language, lexicographers, technical writers, journalists, and teachers of foreign languages. 

More linguists are finding jobs outside of academia as computational linguists for dot-com companies. They build databases and lexicons and develop language-processing systems for Web sites to make it easier for people to navigate and get more precise answers to requests for information.

Starting Out

Professors often keep students aware of openings for graduate teaching assistantships and of campus recruiting visits by potential employers. In graduate school, students can find work tutoring undergraduate linguistics classes or assisting professors in their research or classroom work. Such experience is very important when it's time to look for employment.

Linguists interested in working for the federal government should look for civil service announcements and apply to the federal agency for which they want to work. The armed forces also sponsor the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center for military personnel. Admittance is based on scores from the Defense Language Aptitude Battery Test. Linguists who are attracted to missionary work should contact the representatives of the mission branch of their church or religious denomination.

Advancement Prospects

Linguists working in a university setting will likely find advancement through promotions to associate and full professorships and, possibly, to department head. Advancement may also come in the form of grants that allow a linguist to establish a clinic, research program, or other special project.

Linguists working in the private sector may advance through promotion to an administrative job in publishing or the chance to write and market computer software. Depending on individual goals, a linguist working for a private firm may pursue a teaching position at a university, or a linguistics professor may leave to take a job with a firm.

Tips for Entry

Subscribe to the Chronicle of Higher Education (https://www.chronicle.com) to learn about trends in higher education and to access job listings. Additionally, visit the following Web sites for job listings: https://www.linguisticsociety.org/jobs-center and https://www.mla.org/Resources/Career/Job-List.

Read Language (https://www.linguisticsociety.org/lsa-publications/language) and Computational Linguistics (https://www.mitpressjournals.org/loi/coli) to learn more about the field.

Try to land a position as an instructor at a college or university.

Conduct information interviews with linguists and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.

Join professional associations to receive a variety of benefits. For example, members of the Linguistic Society of America receive a subscription to Language, obtain discounts on books and journals, and can apply for tuition fellowships to the biennial Linguistic Institute. Members of the Modern Language Association (MLA) can access MLA Commons (https://mla.hcommons.org), a network linking members of the MLA; receive free subscriptions to association publications; and obtain reduced registration fees for its annual convention.