The Basics

What do MLC students study?

This M.A. program is uniquely designed to find professional applications for the study of language and communication. It features an individualized curriculum to develop skills in linguistics, focusing on sociolinguistics and its applications. MLC students have the opportunity to sub-specialize in an additional area of Linguistics, or to draw broadly from many approaches to shape their program of study. 

Additionally, MLC students participate in professional socialization events and career education activities targeted for linguists, designed to enable them to better articulate how their skills and training are of particular value in workplace settings, institutions, and professions which depend largely upon language to accomplish their goals.

Why study language and communication at Georgetown?

Georgetown Linguistics is one of the oldest, largest, and most diverse Linguistics departments in the discipline. Since 1949, we have been committed to the broad and deep study of languge in all its forms. Our world class faculty specialize in all areas of linguistics, including Sociolinguistics, Applied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics Phonetics, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics and Historical Linguistics. Research opportunities for students, within and outside the classroom context, are available, and faculty are particularly comitted to mentoring graduate students both at the Master's and PhD levels.

Who teaches the courses in the program?

Courses are taught by faculty in the Linguistics Department. Your more specialized courses in sociolinguistics will be taught by the sociolinguistics faculty. Faculty from other Georgetown programs, departments and schools, and local experts from the Washington D.C. community also teach and participate actively in our curriculum. Visit the Georgetown Linguistics Faculty page for more information about our faculty.

What professional development is part of the MLC?

Professional socialization, advising, and coursework are three pillars of the MLC.

  • Events. Throughout the year, MLC students participate in professional socialization and career education events targeted for linguists. 
  • Advising. The MLC Director holds regular individual student meetings which involve tailored career development and mentoring. 
  • Coursework. The MLC proseminar course, held in the Spring, is designed to enable students to better realize their professional goals. Students develop tailored materials articulating how their skills and training are of particular value in the workplace settings of their choosing (for example, resumes and questions for informational interviews).

Joining the MLC: How, Who and When?

Do I need a Linguistics major to join the MLC?

No, not at all. But don’t be intimidated by Linguistics! Basically, linguists are people who like to solve puzzles about language and are curious about how language is part of how people think, act, and interact.

If you haven’t had any prior courses in Linguistics (or if you want to be reminded of what you did learn), the MA provides a introductory courses in all areas of Linguistics that will prepare you for the remaining coursework. All of the courses will provide enough linguistic background to understand the course material.

If you are unsure about your research and professional interests, or have a very specific idea of what you want to do, the MLC will certainly help you carve out a path for after graduation.

How long will it take me to complete the MLC?

There are two options for completion of degree. How long it takes you to finish depends on various factors: which option you choose, how many courses you take each semester, and whether you are employed while taking coursework. Full-time students typically complete the program in two academic years (four semesters). Part-time students typically complete the program in no more than three academic years (six semesters). 

  • Option (1) is to take 30 credits (10 courses) of coursework. 
  • Option (2) is to take 24 credits of coursework (8 hourses) and write a Master’s Thesis (6 credits of thesis research).

Can I attend as a part-time student?

Yes. You will work with your advisor to determine your program of study. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that part-time students complete their degrees in three academic years, or six semesters.

What funding is available to M.A. students?

A small number of merit-based partial tuition scholarships are awarded to MLC students each semester, on the basis of faculty recommendation for outstanding performance in coursework. 

Note that the Linguistics Department does not award ongoing tuition scholarships or assistantships at the Master's level. 

For more information about financial assistance, please visit the webpage of the Office of Student Financial services.

How can I learn more about the MLC?

You can contact Dr. Anastasia Nylund (MLC Director), or Erin Esch Pereira (the Department's Graduate Program Coordinator).

Career FAQs

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 linguistics training 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?

Where are graduates of the MLC currently working?

Alumni 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 offer?

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.

Friend of the MLC, 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:

Where can I search for jobs?

These are some of our favorite aggregate sites and job search engines for specific industries.  These will get you started – but don’t forget to network and seek out the HR websites for organizations you’re interested in!