What is Linguistics? Language permeates human thought, behavior, and interaction. Our ability to communicate through spoken and written language, more than any other attribute, distinguishes us as human beings. Linguistics is the study of the uniquely human tool of language.

The field of linguistics includes several specialties:

• Theoretical and descriptive linguistics uncover the universal principles of language, those which govern the structure of sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and discourse. They also explore how these principles are expressed in particular languages and how they change over time.

• Sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics study the relation between language and culture, and society.

• Psycholinguistics explores language as cognitive behavior, including children’s acquisition of language and language production and comprehension.

Linguists also relate the study of language to subject areas such as biology, sociology, philosophy, literature, and education, especially with respect to language teaching. At UCSB, the Department of Linguistics offers the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Linguistics and a Bachelor of Arts in Language, Culture and Society which focuses on language in its social setting. All students majoring in Linguistics take core courses in phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and language change.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Linguistics?

Linguistics majors are intrigued by the study of one’s own and of foreign languages. Beyond simply learning how to speak a language, linguistics majors are interested in language as an object of study. This is a highly technical field in which mathematics, computing, psychology and sociology play significant roles. Linguistics integrates knowledge from many disciplines beyond those mentioned.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the undergraduate advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Applied Linguistics
Comparative Literature
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Language Interpretation and Translation
Linguistic, Comparative, and Related Language Studies and Services
Language change

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?
Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be. The following list provides only a handful of possibilities. Linguistics  majors with strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in many fields. Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study, options include:

Community College Instructor
English Teacher
Foreign Service
Intelligence Specialist
Research Analyst
Teacher of English as a Second Language
Technical Writer
Library science


To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:
O*Net Online

Occupational Outlook Handbook
Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.

See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn.

The Linguist Society of America
This site provides information on the study of linguistics and job opportunities related to the major.

What Can I Do With a Linguistics Degree?
California State University at Fullerton provides general and specialty career areas, employers, and strategies for pursuing those careers.

Focus 2
Check out “What Can I do with a major in…?” under Focus 2.

Graduate and Professional Schools
This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.

Search Master’s and PhD programs in Linguistics.

The Linguistic Society of America
General information about the field of linguistics, a directory of linguistics programs in the US, job postings, and additional resources.

Experience Search Strategies

Get Experience
Build your qualifications by exploring various opportunities to get experience in your field of interest.

Job Listings

UCSB Career Services “Job Search” section
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, Industry Specific, and UCSB Careers By Majors.

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

The Linguist List
The LINGUIST List is your premier source for information on academic and professional positions for linguists.

American Association of  Applied Linguistics Job Bank
A listing of jobs for applied linguists.

USA Jobs
A degree in Linguistics provides skills that can be used almost anywhere – even in the US government!

Professional Associations

Linguistic Society of America (LSA)
LSA is dedicated to the advancement of the scientific study of language.

American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL)
AAAL is a professional organization of scholars who are interested in and actively contribute to the multi-disciplinary field of applied linguistics.

The Association of Computational Linguistics
The Association for Computational Linguistics is THE international scientific and professional society for people working on problems involving natural language and computation.

UCSB Resources