Linguistics majors holding their diplomas at a graduation celebration


What can you do with a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics?

A wide variety of career paths are open to Linguistics majors – with some areas utilizing our majors’ specialized linguistic expertise, and some capitalizing on linguists’ exceptional analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills. Some students choose to continue on to graduate school in Linguistics or a related field, and pursue a career in higher education teaching or academic research, but the majority find jobs in various industries without further education beyond the Bachelor level. Our recent graduates have found interesting and rewarding employment with businesses and non-profits such as Samsung, Amazon, Grow Progress, Apple, Epic Systems, The Geo Group, The Literacy Network, Educational Testing Service (ETS), RGA Public Relations, UW Health, and International English Language Testing System (IELTS), to name just a few.

Linguistics-related Careers

Linguistics majors receive extensive training in collection and analysis of language data, and (depending on their choice of electives) may have experience in areas such as language teaching methodology, socioeconomic/dialectal linguistic variation, or other fields. These skills are directly applicable in a variety of career areas, for example:

  • Computing/Technology – speech synthesis, machine translation, technical writing, data extraction, user experience
  • Marketing – communications, branding, localization, consumer research
  • Education – ESL/TESOL or foreign language teaching, curricular and assessment development, language policy administration
  • Publishing – dictionaries/lexicography, editing
  • Government/Law – language consultancy, technical writing
  • Healthcare – communications, medical interpreting

Transferable Skills

In addition to a deep, detailed understanding of how human language works, the study of linguistics equips students with a set of broadly marketable skills:

  • qualitative and quantitative data analysis
  • data collection methodologies
  • clear and effective communication of technical material, both written and oral
  • evaluation and empirical testing of competing hypotheses
  • advanced critical thinking, systematization, and problem solving skills
  • cooperative and collaborative research

These skills are in high demand in the world of work, and are transferable to essentially any field of useful human activity.

For more information about careers in linguistics, see the Linguistic Society of America’s “Linguistics as a Profession” page.

UW Madison diplomas
UW Madison diplomas. Photo credit: Gabrielle Mistretta

Linguistics Career Profiles

A great way to learn about career possibilities is to explore what others have done before you! Start with these collections of career profiles:

Perusing these case studies can give you an idea of the broad range of challenging, interesting work that Linguistics majors go on to do!

Graduate School

Most students begin working after they complete the Bachelor’s degree, but some students pursue a graduate-level degree in linguistics or a related field. Graduate school is an option for students interested in academic research, computational linguistics, or who need professional qualifications for teaching or clinical practice. Here are a few examples of the graduate programs that our students have chosen!

Career Advising at UW

At UW-Madison we have a strong commitment to helping students make the transition from school into work. The College of Letters & Sciences (of which Language Sciences is a part) has its very own career advising service, L&S SuccessWorks, which specializes in guiding Liberal Arts & Sciences students through all phases of the career exploration and job search process. Resources include:

  • database of industry partners
  • job fairs
  • campus speakers and other special events
  • individual and group advising

Students are encouraged to connect with SuccessWorks regularly throughout their studies at UW-Madison, from year one up through two years after graduation day!

Linguistics major skill sheet

SuccessWorks has a collection of self-paced courses that you can do any time, such as “Jobs, Internships, & How to Get Them,” and “Graduate School & Gap Years.” These are packed with information and resources that can be a good starting place – take a look!

Self-Paced Career Courses

Language Career Advising

The Language Institute supports students interested in leveraging their language abilities in their future careers. They host a variety of professionalization events, and students can also make an appointment with the Language Directions specialist Lydia Odegard to learn about language-related career opportunities that fit their individual needs!

Make an appointment with the language career advisor

Major Advising

For more general questions such as choosing a major and learning about career options, all students also have access to the University-wide Career Exploration Center (CEC).

Declared majors should also make sure to consult with the Undergraduate Advisor, to make sure that their course selection aligns with their career and personal goals.