Online graduate programs in language, linguistics, and translation could be a convenient option for you to become the multi-lingual communication expert you want to be. Programs range from masters to doctorate, offered in fully and partially-online formats.
In an online language graduate program, you could immerse yourself in the language and culture of your choice, building writing and conversational skills and performing fascinating research about how people communicate, or learning how to help others become more fluent. Some online language graduate programs may even focus on applying your multlingual skills in certain careers or industries.
Studying language online could be the flexible option you need to balance your education with your life. After all, online classrooms are portable, accessible through your own laptop or tablet—provided, of course, that it’s compatible and has reliable internet access.
However, that’s not the only potential advantage, or even the biggest. By opting for an online graduate program, you wouldn’t have to limit your search to a convenient commutable distance. Instead, you might be able to apply to programs offering exactly what you need from across the country, and attend online foreign language courses without needing relocate.
Best of all, you may not have to give up on the interpersonal experiences you’d get on campus. After all, language doesn’t just go one way—it’s a collaborative effort to communicate. In online language courses, you could use video conferencing technology to collaborative experiences into the comfort of your own home, potentially even on your own schedule.
So whether you’re studying online because of personal preferences, professional obligations, or even because you have a bit of wanderlust, you could take your education with you without giving up on quality.
Choosing online language graduate programs that work for you is a complex process. There are hundreds of languages spoken throughout the United States alone, and more than six thousand distinct recognized languages currently spoken around the world.
And there’s more to choosing a graduate program than simply picking the language you want to learn. There’s also the types of experiences offered by the school you choose, the way they approach language education, and the types of skills they try and cultivate.
In addition to the examples above, some programs may be more academic in nature focusing on understanding a language and how it works on a higher level, or even performing research surrounding its evolution and usage in different communities.
Each of these program types—not to mention others that may not be described here—may be offered at several levels from masters to doctorate.
Online masters programs in language, linguistics, and translation are typically designed for students who have already earned a bachelors degree in that language, or can otherwise demonstrate sufficient proficiency. Typically, these programs would award successful students a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) when they complete the program. However, some schools may offer additional options, such as a Master of Education or MAT if it’s a program focused on language instruction.
The specific differences between masters programs tend to depend more on the area of focus than the type of masters degree being earned. For example, the curriculum in a program focused on Mandarin for business is likely to be different from one centered on Spanish Literature.
As such, the specific prerequisites for each program are likely to vary based on what the program actually studies and the type of professional role (if any) the curriculum is designed to support.
As with masters, online language and linguistics doctoral programs are likely to vary significantly based on the specific area of study and chosen research area. In most cases, schools award PhDs upon completion. However, it may be possible to earn other types of doctorates in some cases.
Most PhD programs in language and linguistics are scholarly in nature. As such, they may focus on analyzing, performing, and writing research in and around the language of study, how people acquire and use it, and how it evolves. As such, these programs are likely to require a dissertation—which in many cases includes a presentation component.
Some programs may have limited on-campus requirements, even if they’re conducted online. The language one might be required to write this dissertation in may vary depending on the nature of the program and the project, and the specific requirements issued by your program.
Language PhD programs typically require a masters degree in the relevant subject area (e.g. the language in question, in linguistics, etc.). They may also ask for research experience, writing samples, and/or a demonstration of fluency in the language in question, depending on the preferences of the school in question.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs focused on language, linguistics, or translation offer students a unique opportunity to expand their language expertise in a concise non-degree program. Graduate certificates may be offered at the masters level, meaning you’d need a bachelors degree to apply, and would take masters courses, or post-masters, which would require you to hold a master’s degree in order to apply.
With thousands of spoken languages around the world—including unique community and regional dialects, creole and pidgin languages, online language and linguistics graduate programs are necessarily diverse. In the majority of cases, you’d select a program focused on the specific language you want to learn, teach, or use more effectively.
We’ve sorted these programs into three basic categories, to aid in your search.
Online linguistics graduate programs focus on how language is constructed, how it evolves over time, and how people in different communities use it in different circumstances. This means that in a linguistics-oriented program, you may study topics like grammar, phonetics, slang, the history of a language, and its relationship with the socioeconomic, cultural and political influences over time.
One unique aspect of earning an online linguistics degree is how many different ways schools might approach the topic. For example, some programs may look at linguistics concepts in and of themselves, and how they present in languages around the world. Others might focus on a family of languages and how they evolved or diverged. You might choose instead to study the linguistics of a specific language, either your own or one you’re studying. Then there’s applied linguistics, which focuses on using linguistics concepts to analyze communication challenges and find solutions for them.
Romance languages graduate programs are fairly self-explanatory: they’re programs that focus on one or several of the “romance languages.” These include Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, and French. Each one traces its linguistic heritage back to the Latin spoken by people throughout the Roman Empire, hence the label “romance.”
Most schools would offer masters or doctoral programs specific to one of these language (e.g. studying only French or only Spanish) within an overall languages department. That said, some schools may have romance language specific departments, or may offer programs looking at the whole language family.
Most of these programs are likely to focus on building up skills to use these languages in writing, reading and conversation, or teach it to others. However, some may take this a step further, examining the social, historical and cultural context that informs it.
In this context, foreign languages graduate programs are ones that focus on non-romance languages. As a result, this category is significantly broader in scope, covering not just Western Europe but languages originating from all around the world. Example areas of study (sorted into groups by region) include the ones listed below.
The availability of programs centered on each language may vary by school and according to both student demand and available faculty. As such, you’re likely to find more programs focused on more broadly spoken languages or ones currently in demand in certain industries. For more information about a specific program, contact the school in question.
Speaking, writing, and understanding a second language may be useful in almost any career in any industry. That said, a career more directly related to languages may be preferable to some graduates.
In many cases, the minimum education typically required is a bachelors degree, provided one can demonstrate sufficient command of the language in question. However, that can vary by employer preference and specific position, and holding an advanced degree could still be a potential advantage. Other prerequisites, including licensure or certification, may also vary.
Here are a few examples of the types of careers students of online language graduate programs may be interested in.
Whether you’re interested in Spanish Education, Chinese Literature, or better understanding the history and evolution of English, a variety of fascinating online graduate programs may be available. Let GradSchools.com help you find them! Either review the sponsored program listings provided here, or narrow them down using the menu, by selecting your preferred degree level and area of specialization. Then click on the programs you’re interested in to find out more and contact the school!
[i] bls.gov/oes/current/oes251124.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm