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.
You can find an in-depth linguistics career guide here which condenses the information provided above along with examples of career pathways our alumni have pursued.
The department encourages students to reach out to our on-campus career services and programs, including:
Students are encouraged to take advantage of UCLA’s free professional network on UCLA ONE (Opportunity, Network, and Experience) to connect with UCLA’s vast alumni community. With UCLA ONE, students have the opportunity to explore their career interests and acquire new resources. UCLA ONE gives students the chance to get professional advice from mentors and advance their professional goals.
UCLA Career Center – Handshake
Discover your future with Handshake. Handshake is a platform that connects talented Bruins with internships, jobs, and career opportunities. Students are encouraged to use Handshake to find workshops, events, and other career development programs hosted by the UCLA Career Center.