If you are a science-minded individual who is interested in language and the meaning of words, you may enjoy taking courses or majoring in linguistics, the study of human language. Students in linguistics programs learn how language provides meaning between human beings, the origin and form of languages, and how language is acquired. Linguistics teaches people how languages vary, and the impact language has in communities and in society as a whole. Students who delve deep into linguistics may become familiar with and often proficient in foreign languages as well as they examine how language is built across cultures. In addition, students may complement their studies in linguistics with related areas of study like communication studies, cognitive psychology, anthropology, or speech pathology.
Classes and Assignments of a Linguistics Major
The types of courses you take as a linguistics major vary depending on the university you attend, the degree level you’re pursuing, and whether your school’s program blends linguistics into an interdisciplinary degree. In general, however, students can expect to take courses in phonetics and phonology, syntax and semantics, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, computational linguistics, language acquisition, and more. Linguistics students also take courses that emphasize foreign languages, such as American Sign Language, teaching foreign languages, bilingualism, and cross-cultural communication.
Students who are considering a linguistics major should expect to research language acquisition, draft case studies, conduct field research, and use computers to analyze language, along with typical weekly assignments, readings, midterms, and final exams. Individuals who enroll in online linguistics programs face the advantages and disadvantages of learning online, which include the benefit of being able to access your courses 24/7 and the drawback of not being able to talk in person with your professors and classmates.
Degree Levels for a Linguistics Major
- Associate. Online associate linguistics degrees equip students with a solid foundation in the study of language and language behavior, and even includes foreign language study. Students may choose to complete an associate degree in linguistics from a community college for the lower cost, and later transfer their credits to a four-year linguistics program, as employment in areas of education, research, psychology, and speech pathology usually requires an advanced degree. In fact, some two-year schools design their linguistics programs for the express purpose of preparing a student to transfer to a four-year college or university.
- Bachelor’s. Online bachelors linguistics degrees allow students to examine language more in depth, while helping the student become well-rounded by requiring liberal arts courses, such as the social and natural sciences, mathematics, and humanities. Students learn the various ways linguistics is applied, and are equipped for future graduate study in linguistics or related areas. With the right qualifications, graduates of bachelor’s programs may be qualified to teach English in foreign countries, or take up professional positions that emphasize the analytical and writing skills built in the bachelor’s program.
- Master’s. Students choose online masters linguistics degrees for the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of linguistics, such as computational linguistics or psycholinguistics, and to expand their job options. With the right qualifications, those who hold master’s degrees in linguistics could go on to become translators, language directors, college instructors, and researchers. Self paced online masters degree programs, as well as individual online courses, are available for students who work and attend graduate school at the same time.
- Doctoral. A Ph.D. in linguistics equips students with a thorough knowledge of language and writing systems, discourse analysis, cognitive and functional approaches to language, and special topics in linguistics. Students pursue a doctorate in linguistics to gain the credentials to become college professors and for the opportunity to conduct research in an area of linguistics they find particularly interesting. Because a terminal degree is required for most permanent college faculty positions, the Ph.D. in linguistics is the best college degree for future linguistics professors, although graduates may become researchers or consultants as well.
A Future as a Linguistics Major
Students who want to work in an area directly linked to linguistics often complete a graduate degree and become college faculty, taking up positions as lecturers, instructors, associate professors, and professors. Average salaries for all postsecondary teachers were $58,830 as of May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, full-time professors had higher earning power; a survey by the American Association of University Professors found that the salaries of full-time faculty averaged $79,439 in 2008-2009, the BLS noted. Keep in mind, though, that your salary may vary depending on your employer, level of education and experience, and location.
Other with graduate degrees may become researchers inside and outside academia. Those who complete graduate degrees in computational linguistics and other areas of applied linguistics may be qualified for positions as scientists who do statistics modeling in human language technology. Other careers might include lexicographers, translators, linguistics program directors, language specialists, and niche positions in business, government, and the nonprofit world. Since many individuals who hold undergraduate degrees in linguistics go on to work in areas unrelated to their field of study as well, linguistics can actually be one of the most useful college degrees in terms of the variety of job options available.
Students with a degree in Linguistics are considered well prepared for
becoming Speech-language pathologists.