Education and Training Requirements

High School

A broadly based college prep curriculum will help you prepare for a linguistics program. You should take at least two years of a modern foreign language in addition to four years of English. Mathematics, logic, philosophy, and computer science will be helpful for college study in the field. History, psychology, sociology, and other social sciences are important, and the study of ancient languages such as Latin can also be useful.

Postsecondary Training

Employers require at least a bachelor's degree in linguistics, English, or a foreign language, although some will accept degrees in history, science, mathematics, or engineering (if they have also taken linguistics, foreign languages, and related classes). An advanced degree with some independent study in languages could be very helpful. To teach and work at university level, you will need a doctoral degree. The Linguistic Society of America reports that popular specializations in linguistics include academia, computational approaches, government, language education, and fieldwork.

In the United States, more than 150 universities and colleges offer degrees in linguistics, and more than 50 offer doctoral programs in the field. You can learn more about linguistics programs in the United States and Canada from the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). Visit for a directory of linguistics academic departments and programs.

Other Education or Training

The Association for Computational Linguistics, Linguistic Society of America, and the Modern Language Association of America provide continuing education opportunities at their annual meetings and conferences. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Generally, no licensing is required for linguists. No certification programs are available. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous teaching experience (student teaching, etc.) is necessary to become a college educator; it will take several years at the minimum to gain tenure and advance to the rank of professor.

Successful linguists are inquisitive and patient, and they truly enjoy working with words, language, and sound. Strong research, reading, and writing skills are also important. Over time, linguists develop a discerning ear that can identify the sounds of speech in any language. Linguists should also have an interest in people of other cultures and be able to relate to them well. Other important traits include attention to detail and an energetic personality.