Applied Linguistics Training and Education Program Information

Applied linguistics education is offered at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree levels. Explore each program, common courses, and employment opportunities.

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Essential Information

Linguistics is the scientific study of language traits and applied linguistics focuses on practical applications of those studies such as learning and assessing languages, teaching, and literacy. These interdisciplinary programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Bachelor's degree programs typically take about 4 years to complete, master's degree programs take another 2 years. Doctoral program length varies. Programs may require a final exam, thesis or dissertation for graduation.

Bachelor's degree programs require a high school diploma or its equivalent, and some programs may have GPA and coursework prerequisites. These preparation courses might include interaction of language and social organizations, gender and language, communication and culture, and introduction to psychology.

Applicants to a master's program must have a bachelor's degree in a related area such as anthropology, a foreign language, linguistics or political science. Some programs may have standardized test or GPA score minimums. Schools may also offer a graduate certificate to those in other master's degree programs. A few master's programs are available online.

Education prerequisites for doctorate programs vary. Some programs require applicants to have a master's degree in applied linguistics or a related field while others accept bachelor's degrees in any field. Schools with very competitive programs may require applicants to have experience in teaching a foreign or second language. GRE scores suitable for work on the doctoral level may also be required. A few programs offer specializations, such as descriptive linguistics, discourse analysis, language assessment, language acquisition or service learning.


Bachelor's Degree in Applied Linguistics

Bachelor's degree programs in applied linguistics offer both theoretical and practical elements through academics and service opportunities in the community. Students are exposed to the nature of language systems, though they may not be required to learn a foreign language.

Students and graduates may want to join the American Association for Applied Linguistics or the Linguistic Society of America. Required coursework varies according to the goal of the program, such as whether it is to train teachers of second languages in America's public schools or literacy experts in rural third-world countries. Basic courses often include:

  • Assessing languages
  • Classification and description of language sounds
  • History of applied linguistics
  • Linguistic and other factors of miscommunication
  • Pragmatics of language
  • Structure and theories of morphology and syntax

Master's Degree in Applied Linguistics

Many master's programs in applied linguistics focus on preparing students to teach English as a second language.

Students are expected to become proficient in one or more foreign languages, speaking reading, and writing. Much of the coursework delves deeper into material covered in bachelor's program courses. Courses not in bachelor's degree programs may include:

  • Principles of teaching language
  • Language structural functions
  • Communication ethnography
  • Discourse analysis
  • Managing field data
  • Writing an unwritten language in the field

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Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics

Applied linguistics Ph.D. programs generally focus on second and foreign languages, including simultaneous and developmental early childhood bilingualism. Programs are designed to prepare graduates to do language-learning and teaching research. Most professional positions in linguistics education require a doctorate in the field.

Doctoral-level programs in applied linguistics have a set number of required credit hours, but may have few specific course requirements. Programs that require fluency in a foreign language or programs that feature teaching English as a second language (ESL) may have very different requirements from other types of programs. Some doctoral-level courses are:

  • Second language education methods and media
  • U.S. policies for educational languages
  • Reviving indigenous languages
  • Free schools and unschooling for ESL
  • English grammar characteristics
  • Applied linguistics research methods

Popular Careers

Applied linguistics students learn how to think and write analytically, thus preparing them for a variety of careers. These may include:

  • Technical librarian
  • Speech synthesis technologist
  • Speech pathologist
  • Language teacher
  • Bible translator

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a separate job category for applied linguists; rather they include them as one kind of anthropologist (www.bls.gov). The BLS projects a 4% increase in anthropologist and archeologist jobs between 2014 and 2024. The similar field of interpreters and translators is expected to see substantial growth, with a 29% rise in jobs projected over the same period.

According to an overview of linguistics careers by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the job outlook for these professionals is improving and constantly evolving. This is due to the advent of new products (i.e. machines that read out loud to blind individuals or a computer program to translate a website into another language) and companies. Linguistic studies develop skills in students that may be used in the fields of teaching, business and law. As of May 2015, the BLS reports the median annual income of anthropologists and archeologists is $61,220 while interpreters and translators bring in $44,190 per year.

Degree programs in applied linguistics are available at the bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels to prepare students for work in education, research or translating. Those who choose to work as interpreters or translators will have ample opportunities for work with an expected job outlook of 29% between 2014-2024.

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