How To Become A Linguist

A linguist encompasses many specialties, allowing you to work in the computer industry, as translator and interpreters or as a language advisor to the government or private firms. You may even engage in investigative work by working as a special agent linguist of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This job puts you at the forefront of the action as you use your language and investigative abilities to get evidence of espionage activities, go undercover, apprehend criminals, interview witnesses and provide testimony in court.

Linguists usually need to be proficient one or more languages. When working as a translator, you need to be sensitive to the culture of the people you are interpreting for. You also need to have very keen listening skills in order to accurately translate what you hear from one language to another. Good speaking, writing and concentration skills are also necessary to succeed as a linguist.

Why Become A Linguist

There is a sense of fulfillment that is achieved when you are able to foster understanding between individuals who don’t speak the same language and this is one reason why people pursue careers as linguists. But at the very heart of this career is really the gratification that comes with a scientific understanding of language and its power to bind us and affect our lives. It is also a career that has a rosy employment outlook in the next few years.

Linguist Work Environment

Linguists are hired in various industries. They can hold jobs in computer firms for their speech recognition, artificial intelligence and natural language processing endeavors. They are also hired in schools and universities as teachers, with law enforcement agencies like the FBI or the military, with the courts as an interpreter or on the field as linguistic anthropologists. The work is often fulltime, although long hours and work on weekends and holidays may be necessary in some industries.

Linguist Salary

The salary of linguists depends on the industry where they are hired. According to the May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, anthropologists and archeologists, of which linguistic anthropologists are a part of, received mean annual wages of $61,420. Postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers received $66,300 while interpreters and translators were paid $47,920. Those who are hired with law enforcement agencies of the federal government follow the General Schedule pay table which is adjusted each year. They typically receive fringe benefits in addition to their base salary.

Linguist Career Outlook

The employment outlook for linguists is good. For linguistic anthropologists, the growth rate from 2012 to 2022 is projected to be 19 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all occupations. For translators and interpreters, the growth rate for the same time period is pegged at 46 percent, a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth of international trade and the increasing use of the Internet all contribute to the demand for linguists.

Linguist Degree

To gain entry into this profession, linguists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, anthropology, English or a foreign language. Fluency in another language other than English is usually required, especially for those who wish to work as translators or interpreters. Those who wish to work in the computer industry will need to have knowledge of computers as well. No universal certification is available for those who wish to show proficiency in a particular language but states usually require translators to pass a court interpreting exam. Certifications of proficiency are offered in 26 languages by the American Translators Association. The US State Department also provides a three-test series for potential interpreters. Other bodies also provide certification for those who want to enhance their credentials.

Join The Discussion - 4 Comments

  1. Timothy says:

    I am a fresh linguistics graduate! It has come to my knowledge that the job prospects for a linguistics graduate is so narrow or even there appears no way I can get a job! Any expert advice please!!

  2. Tom says:

    My daughter recently obtained a BA from univ of Alaska Fairbanks. She had a 3.9. GPA with also lots of French. She taught French for 3 semesters as instructor. She then applied to grad school in ling. She was rejected by 5 out of 6 schools. So much for that degree. Quite frankly, she has gotten lots of bad advice from her professors. She was accepted by Hawaii but with absolutely no financial support. MA program. Out of state tuition is 24k per year. So, this is not medical school. She probably won’t make much even with an MA degree. I am a chemist at same U. A 3.9 Gpa in our dept goes much further. Chem grad schools do not accept students without a TA and tuition waiver. It would be considered unethical. Why spend enormous sums of money with huge debt for a degree that has low earning power? My advice to her is cut your losses and find another degree.

    • David says:

      Tom – You don’t go to college to get a degree to have high earning power. College teaches you how to learn. If your daughter wants to get a degree in linguistics, let her. It’s her life and her decision – not yours. You should be encouraging her and not pushing your viewpoints upon her. That’s what interests her. So many people think going to college just helps you get a higher paying job and that is the wrong way to view it.

      • Kayla Helms says:

        That should not only be the reason for getting a degree but be realistic and practical. There is debt in going to school and it will be owed along with basic living needs after graduation. Remember that.

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