Careers & graduate school

Career opportunities for linguistics majors

The Linguistics major provides a good variety of career possibilities. Linguistics majors do well in the job market and in graduate school because of their skills in writing, critical thinking and interpersonal relations that are highly valued by employers and that apply to a wide variety of professional jobs.

Graduates with BAs in linguistics are frequently hired to teach foreign languages, English as a second or foreign language, and literacy. Employment opportunities also are available in such fields as health services, speech technology, legal consulting, writing and editing, language teaching, data mining, lexicography, and translation. Specialization outside the major (in language teaching, communication services, journalism, computational methods, psycholinguistics) is likely to enhance employability in these areas. More information about careers in linguistics can be found at a page developed by the Linguistics Society of America.

Some representative job titles of recent Linguistics major graduates:

  • Voice recognition analyst
  • Equity analyst
  • Bilingual first-grade teacher
  • Legislative assistant
  • Interpreter
  • Librarian
  • Actor
  • Marketing manager
  • ESL instructor
  • Production artist (with advertising agency)
  • Public relations manager
  • Brand name analyst

Graduate school

Those wishing to continue to graduate school with a Linguistics BA from Berkeley will find themselves competitive for PhD programs in Linguistics and, depending on the focus of their major, in Anthropology, Psychology, Education, Sociology, and other fields. In addition, many Berkeley BA recipients continue to graduate school for professional degrees in areas such as speech language pathology, information management, library and information studies, accounting, museum studies, neuroscience, and law. More information about graduate schol in general can be found at the Berkeley Career Center site.

Should I apply to graduate school in linguistics?

In linguistics graduate school you will develop an original research program and prepare yourself for a career in academia. Students usually decide to apply to graduate school because linguistics is the field they are most excited about working in. If you enjoy linguistics classes, have questions about linguistic issues that go beyond coursework, and read about linguistics on your own, you may be a good candidate for graduate school in linguistics.

PhD and MA programs in linguistics are competitive; admission rates at top graduate programs in linguistics are typically below 5%. Strong graduate school applicants typically combine good grades, participation in linguistics research, such as through LRAP, independent studies, or theses, and linguistics coursework, often including graduate linguistics classes.

The good news is that most of these programs are funded. This means that admission to a linguistics graduate program often comes with free tuition and a stipend which covers basic living expenses. This stipend is often tied to the expectation that you will spend some of your semesters teaching, typically as a GSI/TA.

If you feel that you are a good candidate for linguistics graduate school, you should talk to a GSI or linguistics faculty member as soon as possible. Concrete steps can be taken in your second or third year as an undergrad that will set you up for success in linguistics graduate school. A list of graduate programs in linguistics can be found at the LSA website.