What can a linguistics Ph.D. do outside academia?
June 1, 2006 4:21 AM   Subscribe

I've been toying with the idea of going back to school for a graduate degree in linguistics. I know the academic job market for linguists is terrible — about as small and tight as they get these days, from what I hear. But what can you tell me about the non-academic job market? Other than speech pathology, are there any branches of linguistics that are in demand in the real world?

(Note that I'm not asking, like many here have, if a graduate degree is "worth it." I'm pretty sure a Ph.D. in linguistics is a bad investment, but I don't care — I find the subject fascinating, and I really want to do research in it. I just want to know what my fallback options would be if I couldn't score a tenure-track job somewhere.)
posted by nebulawindphone to Education (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend who works at Nuance, a company that specializes in speech recognition software. They do Amtrak's Julie, for example. His job has always seemed very interesting.
posted by extrabox at 4:37 AM on June 1, 2006

There are linguistics graduate programs that have an applied bent via ESL (english as a second language) but if you want straight linguistics those programs may be not what you are looking for.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:24 AM on June 1, 2006

Commercial stuff involving computational linguistics, specifically things like natural speech generation, for example.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:01 AM on June 1, 2006

It totally depends on what you want to do with your linguistic degree. In the academic market (I know you didn't ask), there is English as a Second Language, speech pathology, AI/speech recognition, rhetoric/writing. Outside, there is AI/speech recognition, speech pathology, and perhaps some others. Chances are, though, that you will get a tenure-track job, just not in a kind of linguistics where you are doing fieldwork in exotic locales.
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:28 AM on June 1, 2006

I'm working on a Ph D. in computer science/computational lingusitics.

I don't know if you are a technical person, but there is good money to be made in computational linguistics. Google, Microsoft and IBM are all hiring, but you might be expected to know a little about software engineering.

Also, discriptive linguists are finding jobs as analysts with the government right now.
posted by Alison at 7:05 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I just had a linguistics class and got told over and over that the exploding market is in forensic linguistics.
posted by klangklangston at 7:25 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I may be wrong, but I've been led to believe that there's work for linguists in the, uh, espionage/surveillance/whatnot biz.
posted by box at 7:29 AM on June 1, 2006

I hear the market for American accent training is booming. Chinese buisinessman learn English on a theorical basis, and once they come to the US their accent is so bad they cannot be understood. This is not exactly ESL, since there is no grammar and vocabulary to teach, just accent.
posted by gmarceau at 7:51 AM on June 1, 2006

I work in professional naming. My boss has a linguistics degree, as do many people in all the other naming firms.

Lexicon, a naming company, apparently has direct heritage in the Stanford Linguistics department.

We also work with a number of firms (Lionbridge, Linguistic Systems) who do native speaker analysis on names and taglines for us and they employ linguists.
posted by Gucky at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have a bachelor's in Linguistics, which allows me to do the cryptoquip in record time. And that is about it.

So, depending on what other kinds of training/degrees you have, you can get jobs in marketing firms naming products. That generally requires some business experience, however.

I want that job myself. I want to name lipsticks.
posted by oflinkey at 11:12 AM on June 1, 2006

On preview, what Gucky said. Hey, Gucky, can I have a job?
posted by oflinkey at 11:13 AM on June 1, 2006

Computational linguistics, absolutely.

Even if you're not interested in being an SLP, you could teach them. Certain subfields in linguistics (neurolinguistics, speech production and perception) can get you an academic job in communication sciences/disorders, where there is a huge demand for faculty.
posted by kmel at 1:40 PM on June 1, 2006

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