How to Become a Linguist

Linguist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $45,520
Avg. Pay / hour $21.88
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 24%

Linguists are professionals who are experienced with languages.

These individuals can work in several different industries and agencies to help facilitate communication for vastly different languages or cultures.

A Linguist’s highly needed skills are needed in our contemporary world because of the impact globalization has had on our society.

In the United States, the impact of non-English speaking residents has also caused the influx of job openings for individuals who know a second language.

For individuals who want to become a Linguist , there is no better time than now to go into this profession as the job prospects for this profession look strong.

Education Requirements to Become a Linguist

The requirements needed to become a Linguist will vary depending on the industry and employer an individual works for.

For the most part, those who want to become a Linguist must have a bachelor’s degree and must be fluent in a minimum of two languages.

While attaining their Bachelor’s degree, an individual can focus their studies on a language such as Arabic, Spanish or Chinese.

Being proficient in speaking, reading and writing is a must for professionals who want to become a Linguist and who want to work in the language of their choosing.

Certification is highly recommended for individuals who want to become a Linguist.

Attaining certification can assure employers that Linguists have passed a variety of tests proving they are able to speak, read and write one or multiple languages.

Individuals can visit websites such as Transperfect or a similar certification program, to learn more information about the specific requirements to become certified.

Individuals who would like to work with the CIA or FBI and assist with national security, must take a series of tests and exams that qualifies them for a position within these agencies.

These tests measure the proficiency and capability of an individual to speak, read and write a certain language.

In addition, because of the sensitivity involved with national security, an individual must also pass a background check, security clearance, drug test and must also be a U.S.

Citizen in order to be hired as a Linguist in this sector.

Linguist Job Description

Linguists work with languages in many different capacities and for many different industries.

For agencies such as schools or hospitals, a Linguist will mainly work as an Interpreter or Translator facilitating communication between patients and health professionals or parents and school staff.

In addition, an individual may also translate written material such as legal documents, medical records, brochures, literature or contracts.

Linguists working for a different industry, such as the military, will be responsible for translating material for defense decisions.

Linguists working for the Navy may assist in providing translation to dignitaries from another country as well as foreign nationals.

Linguists working for law enforcement will be responsible for facilitating communication to solve crimes.

Linguists working to investigate and prevent crime are referred to as Forensic Linguists and can assist with crime solving procedures and evidence.

In addition, another specialized Linguist can work for the FBI or CIA to help with national security.

Linguist Salary and Career Path

The median annual salary for Linguists and the closely related profession of interpreting was approximately $45,430 in 2012.

In addition, Linguists also have a high projected growth rate of 42 percent through the year 2010.

This high growth is attributed to the impact globalization has had on our culture as well as the increase of non-English speaking residents living in the United States.

Linguists can find a plethora of jobs in many industries including the military, the CIA, the FBI, hospitals and even forensic science.

Wages and salaries will heavily depend on the chosen industry.

However, individuals with certification or residing in larger urban areas will have the most opportunities available to them.

For an individual who loves languages and facilitating the communication between two languages and cultures, a career as a Linguist may seem like a natural path to take.

Linguists can use their much needed skills to assure that the context of one language is correctly translated into the target language.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$97,510
New Hampshire$53,800
New Jersey$55,010
New Mexico$54,790
New York$80,640
North Carolina$60,050
North Dakota$39,400
Rhode Island$55,180
South Carolina$46,100
South Dakota$42,700
West Virginia$37,480
Puerto Rico$36,240

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $97,510.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $97,510
New York - $80,640
Virginia - $76,670
California - $73,490
Connecticut - $72,920
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Interpreters and Translators, OCC Code 27-3091, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a linguist do?

A linguist is someone who studies the language.

The scientific study includes syntax, significance, definition, sound, and so on.

Linguistics would typically make observations, construct prototypes and theories, develop and analyze hypotheses, implement scientific methodologies to the study of languages, etc.

Linguists can work in a wide range of spheres.

One might be a sociolinguist – study the user’s environment, how he uses the language…

Some linguists try to preserve the languages that are dying, while others partner with doctors to help ensure mutual understanding between the doctor and the patient (medical linguistics).

How much do linguists make?

On average, a linguist can make a little more than $68.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $40.000 and $114.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location, and so on.

The professionals that work in Washington and Seattle, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level linguist can earn around $51.500 per year, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $79.000 and more per year.

How much does it cost to become a linguist?

You would need to have at least a bachelor’s degree to become a linguist in most of the cases.

To improve job prospects, you can consider getting a master’s degree or taking some postgraduate courses (you can always combine linguistics with psychology or anthropology, for example).

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (bear in mind that the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

A master’s degree will typically cost you over $30.000.

You can also go for a Ph.D. in linguistics that will cost you between $28.000 and $40.000 per year.

What is the demand for linguists?

The academic job market for linguists will remain pretty much the same throughout the years.

However, those who decide to work with online dictionaries and thesauruses or in the area of computer-assisted language learning will have incredible job perspectives in the near future.

How long does it take to become a linguist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to get a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last year in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience.

In case you decide to go for a Ph.D., it can take you anywhere between 4 and 10 years to complete.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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