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What can I do with my BA in Linguistics?
February 21, 2009 1:11 AM   Subscribe

I am going to graduate soon with my BA in Linguistics. I am not planning to go to graduate school because of my department's issues and I'm quasi-singled out from the rat race. Other than being a translator, what can I possibly do? It seems that the very "underrated" field of studies called Linguistics (or any Liberal Arts stuffs) is an under-appreciated quality for a safe career.
posted by sanskrtam to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
psst. did you see this linguistics-and-jobs-related post yet?
posted by whatzit at 1:43 AM on February 21, 2009


With a BA in linguistics you can do the same as those with a BA in any other liberal arts department: i.e. nothing specialized (at least off the bat). I understand that you don't want to pursue a graduate degree in your university, but consider a switch to another uni if you want to continue studying linguistics. Also, think about the many interesting sub-disciplines: neurolinguistics, acquisition research, language documentation, etc. Graduate students in linguistics tend to focus on a specific area of the field, sure they get the same degree, but they focus more.

If you are uninterested in a career in those ivory towers, you may want to do a MA in computational linguistics, forensic phonology, or whatever it is you like about the field.

Good luck.
posted by mateuslee at 2:32 AM on February 21, 2009


Have any coding skills? What about computational linguistics?
posted by pravit at 7:48 AM on February 21, 2009


IANAL(inguist), but you might want to reconsider the idea that your department is keeping you from going to grad skool.

Not sure how it is in your field, but in a lot of professions-- especially if you plan on teaching-- it's actually a good thing to go to a different school for graduate studies than the one where you got you bachelor's. Shows you can adapt to new environments, faculty, etc., and that you weren't some department's "golden child" who got pushed all the way through without earning it.
posted by Rykey at 8:15 AM on February 21, 2009


With a BA in linguistics you can do the same as those with a BA in any other liberal arts department

mateuslee nails it.

The real question you want to ask yourself is, what do you want to do? An arts degree can prepare you to immediately be a:

- project coordinator (takes some people skills)
- business development lead (takes people skills)
- client relations manager (again, the people skills)
- salesperson (people)
- research coordinator
- communications coordinator (takes research, writing and planning skills)

My advice would be to seek out jobs in sectors with higher-paying salaries. Also, shy away from job *titles* where there is a lower barrier to entry: salesperson, writer, editor.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2009


Oh, lord. Don't think there's nothing you can do.

You can do anything.
posted by trotter at 8:55 AM on February 21, 2009


Go to a different school for grad school. My boyfriend was at one point a linguistics major and he said the graduate program didn't often accept students from the university's undergrad department. It was expected that students would go to a different university for grad school.

Also, computational linguistics is a good field that is growing. Things like speech recognition technology are places for linguists.

Of course, with just a B.A., you may not be able to get all of those jobs, you may need to go to grad school, especially in this sucky job market today.
posted by fructose at 8:58 AM on February 21, 2009


I should add that I'm not saying you shouldn't try, but it's been my boyfriend's experience as a recent college grad in a somewhat similar field (with the linguistics minor) that the job market is extremely competitive and most employers are looking for people who not only have degrees, but have actual work experience in the field (which you may have).
posted by fructose at 9:00 AM on February 21, 2009


Thank you for the inputs.

Reconsidering grad school? Already did several times and I'm not looking forward to it. Of course, since my main field of interest in linguistics is already dead long time ago.

Now it's all 100% computational, forensic, and cognitive linguistics, which I really despise of. Sadly it has already marginalized a huge chunk of linguistics-loving people like me.

Oh, well. I'll just do some jobs that are unsafe careerwise.
posted by sanskrtam at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2009


What is your "main field of interest"? You have not said and it would make suggestions far easier.

Barring that, here's the situation -- note that your actual degree doesn't matter:

1. degree in non-career-related field (at least in the undergraduate level)

2. no interest ("despise") in the information technology related fields where almost 100% of the money is _regardless of liberal arts area of specialization_

3. no desire to go to grad school to convert a pre-specialization degree of low practical value to a specialized degree of practical value

If this is the situation, then the best advice so far is KokuRyu's: go get a job that isn't really related to your degree.

btw, I do not understand the "translation" part -- academic linguistics (at least in the l1/l2 language acquisition, philosophy of mind, computational, cognitive linguistics, etc. sense) is only marginally related to translation which is all about being a very skilled speaker (and reader) of the languages needed for translation. Linguistics as a program does little or nothing meaningful in preparing one for life as a translator and in my experience didn't have anything meaningful to offer when it came to foreign language learning [it was of zero applied value].
posted by rr at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2009


Historical Proto-Indo-European linguistics is my main field of interest.

Though a lot of people I know who are in the translating/interpreting business have linguistics degree, though this kind of job is hectic. In many of the cases, having a linguistics degree is recommended for translating/interpreting.

I apologize for being uncooperative. It's just that I am really frustrated towards my department.
posted by sanskrtam at 3:54 PM on February 21, 2009


That is an academic subject. It was a poor choice if you do not desire to pursue academia.

I'm going to double down and suggest that unless you want to take a crack at writing linguistics books for the layperson (not a wide market) that you go with the previous advice: take a generic "needs a BA" job or go back to school.
posted by rr at 5:56 PM on February 21, 2009


That is an academic subject. It was a poor choice if you do not desire to pursue academia.

Because somebody asked me what my main interest is. I answered it.

I said it before that I am not planning to go to grad school.

Hmmmm?
posted by sanskrtam at 6:34 PM on February 21, 2009


Here are a few ideas.

1. You could be a textbook editor.

2. You could be an ESL teacher at a private school (preschool, elementary, high school) or a language school like Berlitz.

3. You could be a tutor for students who will take the ACT, SAT, TOEFL, or any other standardized test that includes vocabulary. You could work as a private tutor or find a nearby school (like Kaplan or what have you) to work at.

4. You could work for the company (or companies) that make(s) all the standardized tests and do test development or assessment.

5. You could join the Peace Corps. You may find this to be an excellent springboard of ideas for future jobs/projects, especially if you get to learn an obscure foreign language!

6. You could work in a language lab at a college/university.

7. You could be a textbook rep: the person who visits various departments at post-secondary schools and shows them the shiny new texts related to language/linguistics.

8. You could teach literacy at an Adult Basic Education school in your area.

9. Did you study another language at all? Perhaps you could teach that in a private school setting.

10. You could work for a company that makes linguistics-related educational software (like grammar programs for English language learners).


Best of luck to you in the job search.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


You could start by interning at a speech recognition company, eventually join at entry level as an associate speech scientist and work your way up, or switch over to voice user interface design if it appeals to you. You'll need additional training, but the skills are so specific and relatively rare that speech companies usually provide that to you.
posted by Dragonness at 10:56 AM on February 23, 2009


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