Civilian Jobs For Military Linguists

Oct 05, 2017

For individuals who served in the military as linguists, there are a number of career possibilities in the civilian world that would allow them to put their language skills to good use. Learn more about the requirements and benefits of these jobs that range from historian to interpreter.

While linguistic-related careers may not immediately come to mind when thinking of the military, there are actually a number of related careers available in the Navy, Army, and Air Force, such as those dealing with the translation and analysis of messages. Once members of the military enter civilian life, they can use the skills they learned and used during their time as a military linguist to transition into a civilian career. We will discuss some of these options below.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Interpreter/Translator $46,120 29% Fluency in multiple languages, communication skills, interpersonal skills, speaking and writing skills
Linguistic Anthropologist $63,190 4% (for all anthropologists and archeologists) Cultural sensitivity, interpersonal skills, communication skills, familiarity with multiple languages
FBI Linguist Agent $61,600 4% (for all police and detectives) Communication skills, physical stamina, leadership skills, perceptiveness, familiarity with multiple languages
Postsecondary Foreign Language Teacher $63,500 11% Communication skills, organizational skills, interpersonal skills, fluency in chosen language
Historian $55,110 2% Problem-solving skills, communication skills, analytical skills, familiarity with multiple languages

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Relevance to Military Background

While these careers are also accessible to individuals without a military background, the skills and expertise that you gain by working as a military linguist are likely to serve you very well in these career fields. Military linguists may have worked in the translating and interpreting fields before, while others may have spent their careers working with different cultural groups around the world through the field of linguistics on behalf of the military. The military also teaches skills like responsibility, determination, and teamwork, which could transfer well to any career. We will discuss each career in greater detail below.


Former military members who worked as interpreters and/or translators during their time in the military could find jobs in the same fields as a civilian. While military interpreters may have provided interpretation services between soldiers and local populations or have translated text to create written documents to be distributed in the area, civilian interpreters and translators perform similar duties in different settings. Some interpreters may work in the healthcare and legal fields providing services for patients and clients who don't speak English well. Others may translate books and documents from one language into another. To become an interpreter or translator, you will need to be fluent in English and at least one other language.

Linguistic Anthropologist

Individuals who worked as linguists in the military may be interested in transitioning to a career as a linguistic anthropologist as a civilian. Linguistic anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that focuses on the study of how languages and various types of communication are used by humans. They may focus on how different cultures use language and the differences among languages. Many of these professionals have experience and knowledge in languages spoken outside of Europe, which may be good news for veterans who worked with critical languages spoken in areas like Asia and the Middle East. Because the field of anthropology often involves interaction with and study of human subjects, the experience gained working as a military linguist could be good preparation for this career. To become an anthropology linguist, you will generally need to have a master's degree in a related field, though some may find jobs with bachelor's degrees and work experience, in which case having a military past may be favorable.

FBI Linguist Agent

Individuals who have a military background may find transitioning to a career in law enforcement to be a natural fit considering the skills they honed while in the military. As an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) linguist, you may be responsible for helping the FBI carry out missions, perform counterintelligence, and prevent various types of crimes by using your language skills, as well as your knowledge of other cultures. You could work primarily from an office or work in the field, interacting with people from other cultures in a way that may be similar to the duties you performed in the military. In order to become a full-time FBI agent in linguistics, you will need to begin your career with the FBI as a contract linguist. To become a contractor, you will need to pass a speaker proficiency test

Postsecondary Foreign Language Teacher

Another option for former military linguists would be a career as a foreign language teacher at the postsecondary level. These teachers generally work at colleges, universities, and other postsecondary educational institutions. They are responsible for holding classes for students who want to learn languages other than English by improving their speaking, writing, and reading comprehension skills. Some classes may also involve a cultural element in which students learn about the cultures and people who speak that particular language. With first-hand experience as a military linguist, you may be well-equipped to provide interesting insight and share stories about these other cultures. To become a postsecondary foreign language teacher, you will generally need a master's degree in the subject you want to teach.


A historian is a professional who works by researching the past and gathering information on the behalf of businesses, organizations, governments, or perhaps for their own purposes in order to publish a paper or write a book. They often spend their time studying various historical documents, which may be written in languages other than English. A military linguist with an interest in research and history may enjoy transitioning to this career path, as it would allow them to put the analytical skills they learned in the military to good use, while continuing to use their skills in other languages. Normally, to become a historian you will need at least a master's degree, though some history-related positions may be open to those with only a bachelor's degree.

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