Because it provides a broad knowledge base, flexible communication skills, critical thinking abilities, and an understanding of human nature, the English major prepares students for a wide range of career opportunities. Students in non-teaching emphases are encouraged to minor in applied fields such as business, public relations, or journalism to complement the major. In recent years, English majors have found positions in the following areas:
Writing and editing for magazines, newspapers, and publishing companies
Management training and personnel
Public relations and advertising
Sales and customer service
State and federal government
Teaching at the secondary or middle school level
Teaching English as a second language to adults, either abroad through the Peace Corps, or through bridge programs and corporate workplace programs
If you are considering becoming a linguistics major, you probably know something about the field of linguistics already. However, you may find it hard to answer people who ask you, "What exactly is linguistics, and what does a linguist do?" They might assume that it means you speak a lot of languages. And they may be right: you may, in fact, be a polyglot! But while many linguists do speak multiple languages—or at least know a fair bit about multiple languages—the study of linguistics means much more than this.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Many topics fall under this umbrella. At the heart of linguistics is an understanding of:
the unconscious knowledge that humans have about language
how children acquire language
the structure of language in general and of particular languages
how languages vary
how language influences the way in which we interact with each other and think about the world
Work in industry: Training in linguistics can equip you to work on speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, user research, and computer-mediated language learning, among many other areas.
Work in education: People with a background in linguistics and education can develop materials for different populations, train teachers, design assessments, find effective ways to teach language-related topics in specific communities, or use the language of a community effectively in instruction. Many applied linguists are involved in teacher education and educational research.
Teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in the United States or abroad: If you want to teach ESL in the US, you will probably need additional training in language pedagogy, such as credentials in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL). Many teaching positions abroad require only an undergraduate degree, but at least some specialized training in the subject will make you a much more effective teacher. Linguistics can give you a valuable cross-language perspective.
Teach at the university level: If you go on to get a graduate degree in linguistics you might teach in departments such as Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Speech/Communication Sciences, Anthropology, English, and departments focused on specific foreign languages.
Work as a translator or interpreter: 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 relevant language(s) is necessary, and additional specialized training may be required.
Teach a foreign language: Your students will benefit from your knowledge of language structure and your ability to make certain aspects of the language especially clear. You will need to be very proficient in the relevant language, and you may need additional training in language pedagogy.
Work on language documentation or conduct fieldwork: Some agencies and institutes seek linguists to work with language consultants in order to document, analyze, and revitalize 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.
Work in the publishing industry, as a technical writer, or as a journalist: The verbal skills that linguists develop are ideal for positions in editing, publishing, and writing.
Work for a testing agency: Linguists help prepare and evaluate standardized exams and conduct research on assessment issues.
Work with dictionaries (lexicography): The development of good dictionaries requires the help of qualified linguistic consultants. Knowledge of phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics is key to becoming a lexicographer.
Become a consultant on language in professions such as law or medicine: The subfield of forensic linguistics involves studying the language of legal texts, linguistic aspects of evidence, issues of voice identification, and so on. Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and police departments, law firms, and the courts hire linguists for these purposes.
Work for an advertising or branding company: Companies that specialize in advertising often do extensive 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.
Work for the government: The federal government hires linguists for the Foreign Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and so on. Similar opportunities may exist at the state level.
Become an actor or train actors: Actors need training in pronunciation, intonation, and different elements of grammar in order to sound like real speakers of a language or dialect. They may even need to know how to make mistakes to sound like an authentic non-native speaker.
Linguistic Society of America: Our website has a wide range of information about the field of linguistics, resources for students, a directory of undergraduate and graduate programs in the US, job postings, and many additional resources.
The LINGUIST List: This website and accompanying email list have just about any kind of information on the field that you could possibly want, including a student portal, up- to-date conference listings, job postings, a means to post questions and make inquiries to members of the field, and other resources.
Have a great career decision!!!