Linguist Job Description, Qualification, Skills, and Salary (2022)

Who is a Linguist?

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language meaning that it is a comprehensive, objective, systematic, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of all aspects of language as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistics analysis include phonology, phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Each of these areas roughly corresponds to phenomena found in human linguistic systems; sounds and gestures, minimal units, phrases and sentences, and meaning and its use.

Linguistics studies these phenomena in diverse ways and from various perspectives. Theoretical linguistics is concerned with building models of these systems, their parts, and their combinatorics. Psycholinguistics builds theories of the processing and production of all these phenomena. Computational linguistics implements theoretical constructs to parse or produce natural language or homologs. Neurolinguistics investigates linguistic phenomena by experiments on actual brain responses involving linguistic stimuli.

A professional that studies human languages is called a linguist. A linguist is defined as a specialist in linguistics; they examine the structures of languages and the principles that underlie those structures. They study human speech as well as written documents. The linguists are not necessarily polyglots; they are just language specialists.

Furthermore, a linguist has knowledge of the factors that influence language use.They can work in several industries translating, analyzing, researching, and interpreting language. Linguists are employed in education, the government, and other public and private sectors. Their duties vary depending on their role and work environment. He or she spends their time studying what language is and what it does.

Different linguists study language in different ways. Some study the design features that the grammars of all the world’s languages share. Others study the differences among languages; some focus on structures. Similarly, other linguists study language in the head, some study language in society while others focus on meaning. To be successful as a linguist, you should have keen observational powers and be acutely aware of how language and culture intersect. Outstanding linguists understand how language is affected by culture, race, religion, and economic factors and they can identify patterns and process data.

Additionally, linguists study and explore all aspects of ancient and modern languages. They look for ways to make computers respond to voice commands and give spoken answers rather than printed responses on a screen or a printout. Linguists may research the origins of a language and how it evolved, examine the differences among dialects in a country, and document a little-known or endangered language. Because linguists decipher the function of language in human interactions, they do not need to speak the languages they study though many linguists are multilingual. Daily tasks may include discovering phonetic patterns, finding similar words and expressions between languages, and performing verbal and non-verbal experiments with speakers of the same language. Being a linguist is undoubtedly a fulfilling career; the working hours of a linguist typically depend on the employer or sector. However, they tend to work regular shifts and have paid holidays.

Table of Contents

Linguist Job Description

A job description is a useful, plain-language tool that explains the tasks, duties, functions, and responsibilities of a position. It details who performs a specific type of work, how that work is to be completed, and the frequency and purpose of the work as it relates to the organization’s mission and goals. A job description gives an employee a clear and concise resource to be used as a guide for job performance. Likewise, a supervisor can use a job description as a measuring tool to ensure that the employee is meeting job expectations. Therefore, the job description of a linguist includes;

  • Understand job or client specifications and complete all language translations, interpretations, analyses, and research accordingly.
  • Identify and make sense of language patterns.
  • Complete accurate transcriptions of audio recordings and tabulate data.
  • Analyze documents and texts and translate complex information into simple language.
  • Study languages, cultures, and societies to draft national and school language policies.
  • Collaborate with other linguists and discover and document the origins of words and the authenticity of texts.
  • Provide translation and interpretation services to the government, military, and other private and public sectors.
  • Keep abreast of new research and developments that influence language.
  • Train, recruit, and supervise junior linguists.
  • Attend conferences, lectures, and workshops to expand your skillset and professional networks.
  • Research the origins of a source of language and how it is spoken in various regions.
  • Discover phonetic patterns of a source language.
  • Find similar words and expressions between English and the source language.
  • Review audio/video material and accurately transcribe information.
  • Perform local experiments with speakers.
  • Provide clean translations to various clients.
  • Use a computer to implement theoretical constructs to parse or produce natural homologs or language.
  • Make computers respond to voice commands and give spoken answers.
  • Understand how language is affected by culture, race, and religion.


Qualifications for a linguist vary considerably based on region, location, and clime. However, there are core requirements that every employer looks for when hiring prospective linguists. These requirements include education, training, and/or work experience. Relatively, some countries or states might require some certifications as well. The qualifications for an entry-level position as a linguist might be less compared to the requirements for a senior-level linguist position. Regardless, the aspiring linguist must demonstrate tact, confidence, and technical ability to be considered for employment. Remember, the field of linguistics has become highly competitive over the years. Without further ado, the qualifications for a linguist include but are not restricted to the following;

  • Education and training requirements: The ideal candidate must have excelled in arts and humanity subjects during high school. Educational requirements for a linguist vary depending on the types of jobs they wish to pursue. Nevertheless, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree with a major in linguistics, English, or a foreign language is essential for entry-level roles. A master’s degree incorporating some practical linguistic applications will make you more employable. Those interested in teaching linguistics at the college level or during advanced research will need a doctoral degree. During doctoral studies, graduates can often work as teaching assistants and gain useful experience while earning a stipend.
  • Some employers prefer vast candidates so additional language courses are recommended; proficiency in two or more languages is an advantage.
  • Practical experience with translation and transcription software as well as Microsoft Office Suite is a bonus.
  • Work experience: Having work experience in the field or other related fields is a plus. Hence, look for work experience opportunities with organizations and businesses that you are interested in or that will help you develop the skills relevant to your career interests. Some universities provide opportunities to take a work placement during your course or to learn an additional language. If you are interested in becoming a linguist or speech therapist, you must get some work experience. Try and arrange an observation session at your local speech and language therapy service and get some experience working with children and adults with a learning disability or the elderly and disabled people. Experience in working with children in a classroom setting is essential if you want to teach linguistics in schools and colleges. Other forms of relevant work experience demanded by employers include an internship or volunteer work.

Essential Skills

Linguist skills are important attributes that a linguist brings to the industry. Linguists can learn both hard skills and soft skills during their training. Hard skills are technical abilities that linguists apply directly to their work such as foreign language fluency or interpretation. In contrast, soft skills are transferrable skills often that a linguist can apply to the job. Both soft skills and hard skills are equally important because they often support one another. For example, an interpreter may need both foreign language fluency and patience to excel in the industry. Therefore, the essential skills for a linguist are;

Foreign language fluency: A linguist studies languages of all kinds which can include foreign languages. This requires foreign language fluency skills or the ability to interpret and speak certain languages effectively. Several nuances of language must be understood including how culture affects languages, how geography affects dialects, how words or phrases translate to different languages, speaking complete sentences at speed, how laces differ in words and phrases, and how to write and read the language. Foreign language fluency may include intensive courses on the history of specific regions, cultures, and foreign influences to teach how languages evolve and change.

Active listening skills: Typically, communication depends on active listening; which is the act of careful listening and examining non-verbal communication to connect ideas. This means connecting body language and spoken words and paying closer attention to the message the speaker is attempting to convey. This is an important skill for interpretation and other specializations within the linguistics field because interpreting meaning often requires listening skills. A linguist can develop their active listening skills by practicing with friends or colleagues and participating in seminars or training courses. Active listening can also help the linguist build more sustainable professional relationships through good communication.

Interpretation or translation skills: Some linguists often choose a specialty in interpretation or translation, both of which require attention to detail and foreign language fluency. However, interpretation or translation skills are arguably more important in that regard. Translators work with written documents and transfer information between two languages in documents, books, articles, and other written media. Interpreters are verbal translators who convey ideas, words, and phrases from one language to another through spoken words. Linguists have the option to study one or both concepts to increase their skillset and employability. A linguist that can translate or interpret may have a better chance of finding work in the industry since they have the skills to perform the two jobs.

Attention to detail: Understanding languages require attention to detail. Much of language interpretation, translation, and studies focus on the details of the spoken and written languages like how certain words don’t directly translate to other languages. These details help linguists develop a clearer idea of the meaning of words and phrases and how to use them. A linguist learns his or her detail skills from coursework and direct practical experience in the industry. A detail-oriented linguist can be an excellent asset for a linguistic enterprise because they focus on performing their job correctly and looking closely for details.

How to Become a Linguist

Linguistics is an extensive career field that offers many opportunities to career seekers. Linguists often need to develop specific skills, get an education, and gain relevant work experience to excel in the linguistics industry. Thus, it is important to understand the steps or things required to begin a career as a linguist. Understanding this and more can help the individual to seek the right program and decide on a specification in the sector. This section of the article will enumerate the steps to becoming a linguist as follows;

  • Understand the job description, qualifications, and responsibilities of a linguist
  • Complete education and commit to continuous reading; view the best colleges and universities for linguists.
  • Listen, ask questions, and develop relevant skills for being a linguist.
  • Gain relevant and industry-based work experience and view the average salary for a linguist.
  • Explore a career path for a linguist and work on career growth and advancement.
  • Update your resume to include education and work experience accrued.
  • Find relevant linguist jobs and apply.

Where to Work as A Linguist

A degree in linguistics is useful for careers in communication, government administration, marketing, public relations, and publishing. Linguists also go into jobs where they can use their knowledge of linguistics directly such as working for dictionary compilers or as proofreaders and editors. Others train as speech and language therapists or as teachers or find work teaching English as a foreign or second language. There are also opportunities in computer programming and information technology specifically within areas such as voice recognition and language software development. Similarly, a variety of businesses and industries utilize linguists for different purposes. Multilingual linguists may choose to work as translators or interpreters. Marketing firms may turn to linguists to create memorable phrases and non-verbal messages in advertising campaigns to promote products. Government agencies may hire linguists as linguistic anthropologists. An understanding of language and how to communicate effectively are valuable skills in any position. Thus, the typical employers of a linguist include;

  • Media organizations and publishing companies.
  • Marketing and public relation companies
  • Primary and secondary schools and other language schools
  • Civil service and law and accountancy firms.
  • IT and telecommunication firms
  • government and private hospitals

Linguist Salary Scale

Studying linguistics teaches you about the science of language and how it evolves. You develop expertise in analyzing language, looking at syntax and semantics, as well as words and sounds. Also, you study and critique theories and ideas and learn how to present linguistic data in various formats. Thus, the average base salary for a linguist is $77,687 per year. An entry-level linguist with less than one year of experience can expect to earn an average compensation including bonus, tips, and overtime pay of $55,000. Conversely, an early career linguist with 1-4 years of experience earns an average of $74,299 respectively.

Job Description

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