Careers in Linguistics

An undergraduate degree in linguistics is applicable to numerous career fields.


Through the curriculum in the linguistics major at UC Davis, students gain valuable intellectual skills, including analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate their ideas expressively and persuasively. Students learn to formulate valid hypotheses, construct arguments, draw conclusions, and communicate their findings, as the Linguistic Society of America describes. Study of linguistics, therefore, is excellent preparation for a variety of graduate-level and professional programs and careers.

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The Linguistic Society of America lists numerous potential career paths for students with a formal background in linguistics:

  • Lexicography: Linguistic consultants work on the advisory panels of dictionary publishers. Lexicographers must possess knowledge of phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics.
  • Publishing: Linguists can find work in the publishing industry, as technical writers or journalists. The verbal skills that linguists develop are ideal for positions in writing, editing, and publishing.
  • Information Technology: Training in linguistics can enable you to develop expertise in speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and computer-mediated language learning.
  • Test Design: Linguists can work for testing agencies, where they prepare and evaluate standardized exams and conduct research on assessment issues.
  • Linguistic Consulting: Become a language consultant, offering expertise for professionals in law or medicine. The subfield of forensic linguistics involves studying the language of legal texts, linguistic aspects of evidence, issues of voice identification, and other areas of specialization. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and municipal police departments, law firms, and the courts hire linguists for these purposes.
  • Government Service: The federal government hires linguists for the Foreign Service, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and other federal and state agencies.
  • Translation and Interpreting: Skilled translators and interpreters are needed everywhere, from government to hospitals to courts of law. For this line of work, a high level of proficiency in the syntax and subtleties of multiple languages is necessary, for which the study of linguistics provides a foundation.
  • Language Documentation and Fieldwork: Some agencies and institutes seek linguists to work with language consultants in order to document, analyze, and preserve languages (many of which are endangered). Some organizations engage in language-related fieldwork, conducting language surveys, establishing literacy programs, and translating documents of cultural heritage.
  • Advertising and Marketing: Some advertising agencies and the marketing arms of corporations commission extensive, sophisticated linguistic research on the associations that people make with particular sounds and classes of sounds, and the kind of wording that would appeal to potential consumers.

Explore the "placements" page of our Graduate Program to see the divergent, fascinating career paths that some of our alumni have followed.