|What can I do with a degree in Linguistics?|
Like any general undergraduate degree program in the “liberal arts”, a BA program in Linguistics does not provide professional training for a specific career. However, the undergraduate degree program in Linguistics provides at least two general types of skills which are applicable to a broad range of career fields:
· General organizational and analytical skills.
· Facility in dealing with linguistic data, regardless of specific language.
Linguistics differs from most other “liberal arts” fields in that it continually is looking for succinct statements or “rules” which can be generalized to data which was not originally examined. Linguistics is a science in that claims about analysis can be objectively tested by bringing in further data to prove or disprove those claims. Linguistics 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. Thus, for example, by studying phonetics and phonology, a student of Linguistics will have learned 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 is therefore a good field to prepare students for any job where general knowledge about language, “logical thinking”, and/or skill in one or more foreign languages are useful. Some fields where some additional professional training might be necessary but where direct application of these abilities involving language and speech should be obvious are the following:
· 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 BA degrees in Linguistics, the UCLA Linguistics Department has found that its students consider Linguistics to be a valuable background in many other fields where the skills mentioned above have a less direct application. Some of those fields are the following:
· International business fields (import/export, foreign business consulting)
· Law in general (many Linguistics students go on to study Law)
· Specific areas of legal practice (Immigration Law, International Business)
· Writing and editing
· Foreign Service and other internationally oriented government careers
· Entertainment industry, esp. involving international connections
And, of course, there are academic careers in Linguistics itself. Every year several students who get a BA in Linguistics decide to go on to graduate study of Linguistics. UCLA BA students 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 relative new and growing field in US universities, making the job search slightly less traumatic than for other “liberal arts” fields.