Linguistics Forum

Reply to topic

 
View previous topic :: View next topic
Author Message
JacOfHearts



Joined: 12 Jun 2011
Posts: 1
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:27 am
Post subject: Is a career in Linguistics worth it?
Reply with quote

Hello, all! ^_^
I'm a new user, so be kind lol

I'm a senior in high school and seriously looking into a major in linguistics. I adore language and I'm teaching myself 3 different ones right now, and I would love to study how language works in college and yada yada yada... Only... what happens after that?

What careers are there in linguistics really? I've been looking and all I can really find is a translator, but I feel like there is so much more than that! D:
I can barely even find a college that offers it; when I get those silly "Come visit our college because we rock!!" fliers in the mail, I look under language and more often than not, all they offer is Spanish. :/

I've read in several places that a degree in linguistics is useless, but I really, really hope that that isn't true Sad

Help?
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
Dennis
Chomsky


Joined: 30 Aug 2009
Posts: 2417
Location: U.S.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:02 am
Post subject: Re: Is a career in Linguistics worth it?
Reply with quote

JacOfHearts wrote: I've read in several places that a degree in linguistics is useless

Such a statement is silly, and is more a reflection of the attitude of the writer than the reality. How can any degree be useless?
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
Corybobory
Chomsky


Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: London, UK (formerly Vancouver, Canada)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:42 pm
Post subject:
Reply with quote

It depends on if you want to stay in the field of linguistics - if you want to graduate with the degree and then get a job where linguistics is directly applied, your choices are more narrow.

You could work in speech pathology (as a speech pathologist or assistant), become a translator or interpreter if you are fluent in more than one language, or you could research and lecture in higher education (which is where opportunities for fieldwork or authorship would most likely come up).

Of course, once you get a degree in linguistics, you can work in many other positions that find social science/humanities degrees useful. I'm working in the charity/fundraising sector, and there are others in my office that have a degree in linguistics. It's not a bad degree to have, really - you learn a lot of really useful things, and it shows on your CV.
_________________
My Blog: www.palaeolinguist.blogspot.com
My shop: www.coryographies.etsy.com

The new (and improved) linguistics forum: http://www.linguistforum.com
(please join us there!)
Back to top
View user's profileSend private messageVisit poster's website
dimitroff
Linguist


Joined: 13 Jan 2011
Posts: 23
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:41 pm
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Here are some careers/work that can use a linguistics background:

- academic linguist (obviously)
- translator
- speech pathology
- language instructor (not just at a university level, individuals also pay to have language instruction from someone who knows how language works, also the military)
- dialect coach (think: theater, movies, immigrants)
- accent reduction
- bioacoustics (studying animal sounds)
- forensic speech analysis
- speech recognition work (a CS degree would help)
- transcription (transcription of garbled messages is forensically-relevant)
- testing speech hardware and software
- consulting on issues where you have interacting languages (e.g., bilingual education in the US)
- it would aid audiology
- dictionary creation
- it would aid being an editor
- language documentation
- language revitalization (there's money in preserving native languages)
_________________
Linguistics BA and MA; PhD in progress; Specialization: Phonetics.
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
kuasi
Chomsky


Joined: 24 Oct 2009
Posts: 279
Location: Lauderdale/Seattle
PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:03 am
Post subject:
Reply with quote

JacOfHearts,

I personally think that a degree in linguistics is pretty much useless. I realize that I'm probably the only one on here who will say such a thing, but I hope that that's something that will be appreciated.

Actually, the question "Is a linguistics degree useless?" is very different from the question "Is a linguistics degree worth it?". I suppose that technically it's not useless since no degree is useless, in that there are jobs out there that require a degree but don't care what degree it is. Obviously then, having a linguistics degree will make you more likely to get a job (or a higher paying job) than having no degree whatsoever will. But that doesn't answer the question of "Is it worth it?".

My advice to you would be to come up with a career plan and then only bother with the college courses that will help you to achieve it. We all need to make money, and we all have past-times that we would never kid ourselves into thinking can realistically provide paychecks. Personally, I never bothered with trying to get a degree in linguistics because I realized that there is no job that corresponds to what I enjoy about linguistics (that is to say, no one is going to pay me to sit around and study how the grammars of native American languages work). So, like with so many other things I enjoy (such as listening to music, or whatever), I decided to keep my passions separate from my source of income.

You can try to become a professor if you want, and since you speak languages, then you also have the option of possibly becoming an interpreter or translator (though, keep in mind that there's more to those than simply being bilingual). But if those aren't your passions, then they're just jobs. And if your only reason for having a passionless job is to get money, then there's no reason why your job needs to have anything to do with linguistics or languages whatsoever.

Take me for example. (You of course don't have to do what I'm doing, but I want to make my story available to you to consider as an option.) -- There's nothing I love more than studying languages, but I'll soon be going to college to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. It's not that biomedical engineering is something that I necessarily find interesting., it's just something that pays decently well (well enough to make going into debt for four years worth it) and something which is expected to be in demand over the next decade without much of an increase in the supply. Provided then that this job (and the schooling that goes with it, which I plan to take slowly and with no job on the side) isn't much more demanding than the jobs I've had to work in the past, then there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to continue reading grammars in my free time. More importantly than that though, because this job pays as well as it does (much more than my wife and I require to live), early retirement is a feasible option.

And this is something that you might want to consider as well. How much does it cost you to live? How much money would you be able to save a year? What kind of jobs can make you the amount of money that would allow you to put away enough money to retire early? - Do you think you'd be able to save 20 grand a year? If so, then that's 200 grand just in ten years (not including any interest that might accrue over that time). Interest rates are exceptionally low right now, but are still more than nothing whatsoever. Hopefully they'll return to where they were, but any way you slice it, having 200 grand saved up by the time you hit your mid thirties isn't such a bad situation to be in (unless inflation goes through the roof, in which case it would have been smarter to spend the money, and indeed, even go in debt - but if you're going to think in those terms, then all financial planning pretty much becomes pointless). In any case, if you retire, then you can do whatever you want with your time. So you should seriously consider whether early retirement is something you might want to pursue.

I'm sure that a lot of what you've heard at your high school had nothing to do with early retirement, and instead had more to do with finding a job that you won't hate for the next 40 years. I think it's criminal that they put such ideas into kids' heads, and so I just wanted to present a different option to you.

There are of course other reasons for going to college too. Some people go to college to learn. Personally, I think that's a bit of a joke., especially when it comes to linguistics. ---- After being forced to take a bunch of classes that have nothing whatsoever to do with linguistics, you'll end up getting to the linguistics classes only to find you're being taught a bunch of various hypotheses that don't really directly relate to any actual languages. Maybe that's your thing. Maybe you'd be interested in learning about tree diagrams and "universals". But if you have an interest in ACTUAL languages, then my advice to you would be just to go straight to books and get your info that way. (I could recommend some books. Just message me if you're interested.)

Anyhow,,, in conclusion, my advice to you is that your pursue some other degree.
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
Syntaxfiend
Good Linguist


Joined: 18 Jul 2011
Posts: 34
PostPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:07 am
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Well as ever its use depends on what you want to do with it. If you have it combined with a foreign language degree as I have then that gives you more possibilities (or another as in the States I imagine is more widespread i.e computer science). Toshiba are currently recruiting people who specialize in phonology to make more artificial voice systems. There is also some work in artificial translators (but you need skills for that that many linguistics degrees won't give you). In Britain we are lucky that there are many jobs where the entry requirement is a degree in any subject. In Britain you could become an English teacher with a linguistics degree (we do a fair bit on dialect, register etc).

There is the route of therapy as already mentioned.

Linguistics could look good if you want to get into language teaching. A knowledge of linguistics, I have found when teaching in France, helps to get the best out of your pupils too.

There is off course becoming an Academic, but that can be hard to get into, but if you think you can, never say never. That does require a lot of dedication, including a Phd minimum and an academic job isn't certain after that (it helps to have at least one member of staff at you're own university that you get on really well with). I'm not saying that to put you off, I want to do it myself.
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
Adam C



Joined: 02 Apr 2012
Posts: 1
Location: Houston, TX
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:43 pm
Post subject: No Degree is Useless
Reply with quote

I was always told that my degree in Sociology was useless, but I had no problem finding a job. If you really want to help people, I would seriously consider a degree in one of the social sciences as well. I have a website, socialsciencedegree.net, to help you weigh your options and find the right school and program for you. I understand that you probably don't want to consider another possible major, but I really think that you would enjoy some of the things we study (like how the general public treats the homeless or how we react to different cultures).
Back to top
View user's profileSend private messageVisit poster's website
djr33
Chomsky


Joined: 08 Mar 2012
Posts: 4004
Location: Illinois, USA
PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:08 pm
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Having just a BA in linguistics is not very useful, beyond having any degree at all (which is true for some jobs-- any degree will work). Having an MA in linguistics can get you a job in applied linguistics, working in speech therapy, computational linguistics, maybe translation, language instruction, etc. (But of course you'd need to specialize in the right area.) Getting a PhD in linguistics is very useful, but only if your intent is to work in research/teaching, probably at a university or a few non-univesity research centers. 1/1000 might end up with a job at google or something.

Basically linguistics is like math-- it's not very useful beyond the basics unless you stay in the field. (Having an advanced degree in advanced calculus doesn't really do much for you in the real world either-- you'll end up teaching math at a university.)

Personally this is absolutely what I want to do, so I'm happy.

The only other case where this would make sense is if you plan to work with language and need a univesity degree anyway. Becoming a high school french or spanish teacher and having a background in linguistics would be great. I'd highly recommend that. It's also a somewhat useful double major if you can combine it with another area, like archaeology or psychology, depending on what you'll do with it.
Back to top
View user's profileSend private messageVisit poster's website
thamizh-en-uyir
Linguist


Joined: 02 May 2012
Posts: 22
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 11:56 am
Post subject:
Reply with quote

how about going to work for the CIA, FBI, homeland security or the state department and doing epionage (both shoe leather and electronic) realted work? is that a career for linguists?
Back to top
View user's profileSend private message
djr33
Chomsky


Joined: 08 Mar 2012
Posts: 4004
Location: Illinois, USA
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 12:16 pm
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Nope. It's a career for people who speak languages. You CAN study linguistics, but it won't help more than just being fluent in Arabic, Russian or whatever.
There are some pretty great fellowships available, if you're willing to work for the state department after you graduate (I think they're usually a 2 year minimum).

There is some room for linguists doing code breaking and information extraction (eg, a computer reading emails to look for threats). But this is almost exclusively computational work.

Computational linguists can get jobs outside of academia (sometimes), but the rest don't really fit anywhere.

Applied linguists also can, like doing language-related testing, teacher training, etc. (And there's also Speech Therapy, but you need additional special training or just a specific Speech Therapy MA program, not directly connected to linguistics.)

And you can also teach languages. But again that's for language speakers, not linguists. (An MA in ESL is one option that's a little in between.)


In the end, the theoretical linguists end up working in academia or doing something else, like deciding to teach English instead. There isn't much flexibility for that. Other branches of linguistics (computational, applied, etc) are more flexible.
Back to top
View user's profileSend private messageVisit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Reply to topic

Jump to:  

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum