Become a Computational Linguist: Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Research the requirements to become a computational linguist. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in computational linguistics.

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Computational Linguists

Computational linguists program computers to process or produce language in the same way as humans. Described as a sub-field of artificial intelligence, computational linguistics utilizes linguistics, computer science, and math.

Like other computer programmers, computer linguists may often work individually, but they also collaborate with programmers, software engineers, and technical writers to complete a project. They may be able to work remotely, but sometimes group projects crop up that require working together in an office. The median annual salary for linguists was $69,339 according to as of January 2020.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is sometimes enough, but many employers prefer at least a master's degree
Degree Field Computational linguistics or related field, such as computer science or math
Experience At least three years of related experience
Key Skills Detail-oriented; communication skills; familiarity with natural language processing (NLP) applications; experience with programming languages, such as Java and C++
Additional Requirements Fluency in a foreign language and the ability to obtain security clearance


Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

In order to prepare for pursuing an advanced degree, prospective linguists should look for bachelor's degree programs in computational linguistics, linguistics, or computer science. A bachelor's degree program in linguistics could encompass general linguistics, sometimes with a specialization. Linguistics bachelor's degree programs may include classes in language acquisition, phonetics, computational linguistics, and syntax.

Aspiring computational linguists may benefit academically and professionally if they learn a foreign language as a graduate. Advanced degree programs in computational linguistics or linguistics often require students to know a foreign language. Some employers in the field of computational linguistics also require fluency in a foreign language.

Develop Experience

Many employers look for applicants with at least three years of relevant experience. It's possible to find work related to computational linguistics with companies that develop software, especially translation tools or GPS devices. Computational linguists may also be involved with speech pathology, search engines, data retrieval methods, or voice-to-text technology. Relevant work experience is also available in military intelligence, although security clearance may be required. Some common job titles in the field that can help linguists develop a solid background include computer programmer, data analyst, and software developer.

Earn a Master's Degree

A master's degree in computational linguistics typically qualifies graduates for industry or research careers. Earning a master's degree in computational linguistics may also prepare students to pursue doctoral studies in the field. Students may earn a master's without previous relevant study, but certain programs are intended for students who already have a computer-related background, either professionally or academically. Specific fulfillment requirements vary by program, but common expectations of graduates include familiarity with coding languages and natural language processing.

Individuals should consider obtaining a doctoral degree if they want to teach or perform research at the university level. Students interested in pursuing education at the doctoral level could choose a degree program in computational linguistics itself or in linguistics with a concentration in computational linguistics. Some schools offer certificate programs in computational linguistics for doctoral students.

To sum up, computational linguists use natural language processing and programming to teach computers how to process and produce human languages, and having at least a master's degree can help with career options.

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