The typical student of Linguistics enjoys studying foreign languages but is more interested in the languages themselves than the literature written in those languages. Many students are attracted to linguistics by the combination of scientific and humanistic aspects—the type of thinking that linguists do is objective and logical, but the object of study is the most human of all phenomena.
No high schools and very few community colleges offer any courses in linguistic analysis. For students who are unable to take actual linguistics courses before entering UCLA, the best preparatory work would be solid study in one or more foreign languages, courses in logic, the history of English, or the literature of Old and Middle English.
What can I do with a degree in linguistics?
Like any general undergraduate degree program in the “liberal arts,” a B.A. program in Linguistics does not provide professional training for a specific career. However, the undergraduate degree program in Linguistics does provide at least two general types of skills that are applicable to a broad range of career fields:
- General organizational and analytical skills.
- Facility in analyzing linguistic data, regardless of specific language.
Linguistics differs from most other “liberal arts” fields in that linguists strive to create succinct statements or “rules” that can be generalized to data that was not originally examined. Linguistics, like other sciences, develops logical thinking skills and ways to “formalize” one’s claims.
Linguistics differs from the study of a specific language in that it provides terminology and techniques for understanding the structure of any language. By studying phonetics and phonology, for example, a student of linguistics learns how to produce a wide variety of sounds and a general way to categorize language sounds. “Funny sounds” and sound combinations encountered in new languages will be immediately “familiar.”
Linguistics majors prepare students for jobs where general knowledge about language, “logical thinking,” and/or skill in one or more foreign languages are useful. Fields that directly apply abilities involving language and speech, but for which additional professional training may be necessary, include:
- Foreign language teaching
- Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL)
- Bilingual education
- Speech pathology and speech therapy
- Translating and interpreting
- Computational fields related to language and speech technology
In surveys of students who have received B.A. degrees in Linguistics, the Department found that its students consider Linguistics to be a valuable background in many other fields where linguistic skills have a much less direct application. Examples include:
- International business fields (import/export, foreign business consulting)
- Specific areas of legal practice (Immigration Law, International Business)
- Writing and editing
- Foreign service and other internationally-oriented government careers
- Entertainment industry, especially involving international connections
Of course, students also pursue academic careers in linguistics. Every year, several students who earn their B.A. in Linguistics decide to continue their studies in Linguistics. UCLA Linguistics majors have been very successful in getting into highly-ranked graduate programs, usually with fellowship support. Though academic positions for Linguistics PhD students are limited in number, Linguistics is a relatively new and growing field in US universities.
Admissions into any of our undergraduate programs is solely handled by UCLA admissions. For more information, please visit UCLA Undergraduate Admissions webpage.
What are the transfer requirements?
Prospective community college students who are interested in transferring to UCLA in a Linguistics major should consult the Undergraduate Admission website for more information.
Students may consult ASSIST and/or Transferology to see how past coursework has transferred to UCLA. These are advisory tools only, and does not guarantee transferability. Actual course transferability is subject to change without notice, at the discretion of the UCLA Registrar’s Office and Undergraduate Admission. Guidance for courses not listed on ASSIST or Transferology is not given to admitted students until a final transcript is received by UCLA and processed by the UCLA Registrar’s Office.
For questions regarding the Foreign Language requirements specifically for the Linguistics majors, please see our Foreign Language Requirement Guide.