What can I do with a degree in (socio)linguistics?
Some of the major professions in which linguistics is currently being utilized include the following:
- Healthcare Communication: Training in linguistics is coming to be broadly recognized and very highly valued in healthcare contexts including: analysis/training/consulting in doctor/patient communications; health writing; Discourse of medicine, science and health; narratives of illness and identity change; linguistic accommodation between expert and client; language of agency and responsibility.
- Legal professions: There are many ways that the skills and training of a linguist become relevant in legal contexts, including: teaching legal writing (training international lawyers to become ‘fluent’ writers in American legal genres), interpreting the complex language of statutes and contracts; analyzing ambiguity and presuppositions (e.g., in testimony or in cross-examination); elucidation of attitudes toward language in legal proceedings; linguistic analysis (of dialect features, writing or speaking style) in criminal investigations, ‘profile’ suspects in criminal investigations by analyzing dialect/speaking or writing style.
- Education: Many graduates of linguistics become educators (at the primary, secondary or higher education levels, and within corporate and professional contexts). Training in linguistics can help teachers more effectively communicate with their students, to understand how language operates within the classroom and in the wider community. A teacher trained as a linguist is skilled at recognizing how language used in the classroom reflects and constructs social identities (such as gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, race, region, and class), or how knowledge of pragmatics (how language functions in context) can help teachers to identify critical elements of language which play a role in communicating meaning. Such knowledge can inform both the process and products of education, including how teachers design lectures and structure classroom interactions.
- Business: An awareness of language and communication has a broad range of applications in the business world. Generally speaking, one of the most valuable skills that a linguist possesses is that of knowing how to use language accurately and persuasively. Linguists are trained to observe how language is used and interpreted in different contexts, which has been applied very productively in such fields as marketing, branding, and advertising.
- Government: Many governmental organizations actively recruit linguists, particularly for translation, interpretation, and cultural analyses. Several graduates of Georgetown’s linguistics department have found rewarding opportunities within various governmental agencies by articulating the unique value of a linguist’s perspective.
What professional skills does the study of linguistics cultivate?
The scientific study of language cultivates a number of skills and abilities including the following:
- Heightened cultural awareness
- Analytic reasoning skills
- Ability to structure and support a logical argument
- Ability to formulate and test hypotheses using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies
- Insightful observation skills (e.g. identifying and unpacking presuppositions)
- Powerful communication skills (designing a message for reception by specific audiences)
What professional organizations exist for Linguists?
- Linguist List The LINGUIST List, housed at Eastern Michigan University, bills itself as “The world’s largest on-line linguistic resource.” The Jobs area of the site offers position listings in private industry and academia. People and Organizations includes links to 207 linguistic societies and professional associations related to Linguistics worldwide. The Linguist List also provides an FAQ on linguistics as a career.
- Linguistic Society of America Housed in Washington, D.C. the LSA is the largest linguistic society in the world. Membership is required to search their jobs site, but resources accessible to the public include this piece on Jobs and Interviewing in Linguistics.
- American Association of Applied Linguistics
- American Anthropological Association
Where are graduates of the MLC currently working?
Alums and current students in the MLC come from backgrounds in technical communication, diversity training, corporate and strategic communication, research, editing, publishing, writing, healthcare communication, translation, interpretation, and international education. The skills and training received as part of their graduate work with the MLC have led to further opportunities as grant writers; as HR, PR, Marketing, Branding, and Naming, and Technical Communication professionals; many work in education, including as Cross Cultural and Diversity Trainers, or for the Government including the Department of Justice, the Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DC Superior Courts, and the Pentagon. Additionally, every year, we do have a number of students who go on to pursue a PhD (in Linguistics, Education, Sociology, etc.) Please refer to our Alumni Pages for further details on featured alumni.
What Career Services does Georgetown University have to offer?
- The Georgetown University Career Education Center is a resource for Current students and alumni for up to three years after graduation.
- Explore career options and search for job listings through the Hoya Career Connection.
- Or find alumni working in your chosen field through the online alumni database.
What other career development resources are available to me as a student in the MLC?
A very valuable resource for MLCers is our relationship with the SFS’ graduate career center. Search for internship opportunities, find Georgetown alums who are working in your chosen field, participate in career development workshops, career fairs, and other professional development events on campus.
How do I market myself as a (socio)linguist?
We host a number of panels, workshops, and events every semester designed to familiarize our students with career options.
We invite professionals to speak about their own paths, providing networking opportunities and practice for our students in figuring out where their studies fit in the big picture. Additionally, the MLC Proseminar (offered in the Spring) is designed to help students conduct research into a professional area of interest. Class time is spent collaboratively brainstorming how one can pull together the skills being developed through linguistic coursework together with individual interests to create a total package for marketing yourself as a linguist. Please refer to this presentation given at the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) conference about career paths for linguists.
The MLC’s former director, Dr. Anna Marie Trester, writes about the intersection of linguistics and career at her website, Career Linguist.
Are there any suggested readings as I prepare to conduct my career search?
We have found two books to be particularly useful for professionally-minded linguists, both of which are used in the MLC Professionalization Seminar (taught in the Spring):
- Basalla, Susan and Maggie Debelius. 2007. “So What Are You Going to Do With That? Finding Careers Outside Academia.” Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
- Oaks, Dalin D. 1997. “Linguistics at Work: A Reader of Applications.” Mason, OH: Cengage.
Another very useful guide including career exploration activities for academics:
- Newhouse, Margaret. 1993. “Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Academics Considering Alternative Careers.” Office of Career Services: Harvard University.
Finally, some very useful web-based articles:
- “The Career-Savvy Grad student” from Cal Berkeley’s Career Center
- “The View from Outside the Ivory Tower” by Alexandra Lord (from the American Historical Association’s Perspectives magazine)
Where can I search for jobs?
Please see our Job Search links for more information on finding a job.