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 The Geo Group, The Literacy Network, Educational Testing Service (ETS), RGA Public Relations, Apple, Epic Systems, 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
  • Publishing – dictionaries/lexicography, editing
  • Marketing – communications, branding, localization, consumer research
  • Education – ESL/TESOL or foreign language teaching, curricular and assessment development, language policy administration
  • 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 Alumni and Career Profiles

A sampling of career paths from our recent Linguistics graduates can be found on our Undergraduate Alumni and Graduate Alumni pages. (We are always interested in filling these out and keeping them up to date, so if you become a Linguistics major, please do keep in touch with your news once YOU graduate!)

We periodically conduct interviews and alumni panel discussions with recent graduates, which is a great way to learn from your peers’ experiences. You can watch these archived recordings conducted by Kaitlin Koehler of the Language Institute, and keep an eye out for future events!

For some sample profiles of former Linguistics majors from across the globe, it’s well worth your time to explore the many career profiles available at these sites:

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

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. The center has numerous industry partners, and hosts job fairs, campus speakers, and other special events throughout the year, in addition to providing individualized and group advising. Students are encouraged to connect with SuccessWorks regularly throughout their studies at UW-Madison, from year one up through graduation day.

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.