Professional linguists work in a number of fields and engage in a range of successful and fulfilling careers. Individuals with degrees in linguistics tend to specialize in particular areas within the field and build their careers around those areas. What follows is an overview of some popular and common careers within linguistics.

Academia is a conventional path for linguists. Academic linguists devote themselves to a life of science, and after much training often become university professors. They share their love of linguistics with like-minded undergraduate students and conduct research that is essential to the field, sharing their results with the scientific community through publications, lectures, and conferences.

Those who specialize in computational approaches to linguistic problems may work in the computer industry on issues of speech recognition, speech synthesis, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, or computer-mediated language learning. These linguists provide vital skills and expertise in the technology sector.

Some linguists use their abilities and training to work in government. Linguists’ analytical skills are in high demand to conduct research, provide language-related technological services, and contribute important insight on issues of law, policy, and education.

With their training in the mechanics of languages, linguists have a strong advantage in the field of language education. Language educators may teach their native or a foreign language at any level. A degree in linguistics is a good background for those pursuing English as a Second Language (ESL) or Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL) credentials. Linguists involved in education are not restricted to teaching; they also develop educational materials, train language teachers, develop standardized testing materials, and find means to assess acquisition and more effectively teach language. 

There are also a number of important causes that are shouldered by activism-minded linguists. Linguists work to document, analyze, and preserve endangered languages by conducting fieldwork and establishing literacy programs. This type of work can be highly rewarding for linguists collaborating with language communities around the world to help revitalize their languages.

Professional Paths for Linguists: Preparing for What’s Next

With additional training, translation and interpretation are other potential careers for linguists. Interpreters provide on-the-spot services to facilitate communication between two individuals who do not speak a common language. Translators use their language skills to render documents from one language into another. Linguists are uniquely prepared for these lines of work, needed in businesses, court rooms, hospitals, schools, and more, given their in-depth understanding of how languages function. 

Those are just a few of the opportunities open to professional linguists. Countless other opportunities are available in fields as diverse as publishing, law, national security, medicine, dictionary editing, and the film industry. 

Below are a few resources that will help you start exploring the exciting world of professional linguistics.​

LSA Webinar on Navigating Careers