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What does a career in linguistics look like?

#linguistics #July20 #language #career

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Cynthia’s Answer

This is a really BIG question and you will have to do some internal soul searching and some external research as well. First, Linguistics is a very broad field. I am not in this field, but my husband was for decades. He was an academic. Meaning he completed a PhD in Linguistics and taught as a professor at a research university. His work was focused on several very theoretical topics mostly related to morphology and semantics. BUT...there are folksk with degrees in Linguistics who work as language teachers, translators, software designers, writing/grammar experts, etc. etc. Some folks complete a Bachelors Degree...and add certification in English as a Second Language or a Masters Degree in Teaching or Speech Therapy. Some folks complete a Masters Degree- and teach at community college and high school level...or work in business settings. Others obtain a Phd and work both in universities as researcher and professors, as well as in high tech companies like Google and Intel where voice recognition software is critical. I even know someone who is working on research and restoration of Native American languages that are nearly extinct. And someone who worked with me in a university career center advising graduate students on job search. So....what path do you want to be on when you say "Linguistics". That figuring out is going to help you. Look at the LSA (LInguistics Society of America) website. Check out the closest Linguistics department at a university near you. Reach out to them and ask to talk to the undergrad or grad student advisor. Use the internet. Read books by Linguists. I did a google search for "books by linguistics for general public" and got some great recommendations. See what interests you. Reach out to authors....they are mostly professors and love students with curiousity. Ask questions. Keep notes. Take a class. See where this goes. There is work here for creative minds. It's a very young field with lots of wonderful people doing amazing work.
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Courtney’s Answer

Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website called Occupational Outlook Handbook here: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. You can search for various career types and get lots of helpful information about them as examples! I always suggest keeping a list of things that interest you and things that don't so you can start to see some patterns!
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Perri’s Answer

Hello fellow linguistics enthusiast! I studied Linguistics at McMaster and ended up a tech start up, which I'll tell you about in just a moment.

Many of my linguistics classmates went into related practical occupations including:
- Speech Language Pathology (e.g. working with school-age children who have speech and language difficulty, assisting adults who have speech/language/swallowing issues as a result of stroke or other brain trauma, etc.)
- Occupational Therapy
- Audiology
- Teaching

After university, I took a job working as an administrator for a financial advisor where I learned basic office and real-world work skills. A few years later, I landed at a tech start up which uses AI, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) in our software. I started off in customer success - helping new clients get up and running on our software, make sure they were using it properly, and then a bit of sales to renew their contracts when the time came. Customer success is basically a combination of teacher/ trainer, customer support, and sometimes sales depending on the company.

I don't use any of my linguistics education in my day-to-day, but having studied linguistics gives me an appreciate for the engineers on our team who build and maintain our machine learning capabilities, and research new ways for us to improve our NLP.

There was an optional course in computational linguistics offered when I was in the program, but to be honest I think I was intimidated by the topic and chose another class. Looking back now, I wish I would have taken that course. There are so many applications of linguistics in the technology that we all use today. Understanding computers and linguistics is a unique combination that will open up opportunities in software development, voice recognition (think Siri, Alexa, etc.), even technical writing (writing software instructions for non-technical people).

Perri recommends the following next steps:

Check out the required courses for a BA in linguistics at McMaster: https://academiccalendars.romcmaster.ca/preview_program.php?catoid=24&poid=14138&returnto=4569
Read this article about tech jobs for linguists: https://medium.com/@kathmatsumoto/8-jobs-in-tech-for-linguists-f7399ce12f9f
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Courtney’s Answer

I totally agree with all of this! Additionally, you can use websites like this one: https://data.bls.gov/search/query/results?cx=013738036195919377644%3A6ih0hfrgl50&q=linguistics to search for "Linguistics" careers and to see some examples of things you could do in that very broad field, including how to get there!
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