If you're interested in languages and how they work, you may want to pursue a masters in linguistics. These degree programs focus on the application, research, documentation and descriptions of various languages and cultures.
At the heart of every enterprise, regardless of field or industry, is communication. Even the best and most efficient ideas need to be conveyed, whether it's to a board of directors, a group of students or a panel of lobbyists.
One thing that stands true about our communication is that it's not static. Even recent years have seen fairly significant updates to modern lexicon, accounting for things such as common usage, vernacular and even online communication. Linguistics students strive to understand which factors influence our language and how.
The study of linguistics is typically broken up into parts - students not only study the structural and mechanical side of language, but also the social, political and anthropological impacts on how language develops. This means that many linguistics programs provide courses covering both of these facets. Structural linguistics is a fairly unique discipline, and it comprises a series of specialized topics ranging from semantics, semiotics, phonetics and syntax. All of these subjects come together to form the broader picture of how language works.
If structural linguistics is the "how" side of language, than social, anthropological and psycholinguistics make up the "why." Linguistics is by nature a research-heavy field, but students in the latter portion of their studies may wish to move away from semantic theory and apply their structural knowledge to more practical settings. Students may find themselves exposed to more humanities-based subjects, such as psychology, anthropology and
sociology. It's not uncommon for a graduate degree in linguistics to culminate with a dissertation or other major research paper.
The dual nature of linguistics studies - encompassing both theory-heavy and humanities-focused skills - may lend itself to a wide range of possible career paths for students who can creatively apply their skills. Many graduates may wish to reenter academia and pursue careers as post-secondary language teachers. At the post-secondary level, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that post-secondary teachers earned a 2012 median annual salary of $68,970, with jobs expected to grow by 19 percent through 2022.1
A linguistics education may be effectively applied to a therapeutic and clinical context as well. The BLS reported that speech-language pathologists earned a 2012 median annual salary of $69,870, and jobs in this field are expected to grow by 19 percent through 2022.2
Interestingly, the heavy focus on semantics and semiotics could be applied to a different career path as well, namely, pure mathematics and cryptology. The BLS reported that mathematicians earned a 2012 median annual salary of $101,360, with an expected 23 percent job growth through 2022.3
Linguistics may hold a broad appeal thanks to its dual focus on both theory and practice. As interaction and, by extension, language continues to develop moving forward, a keen understanding of the social factors that affect, and that are affected by, linguistic development may be key to an enterprise.