PhD in Linguistics: Degree Program Information

Doctor of philosophy (PhD) programs in linguistics offer a comprehensive study of syntax and semantics. Students also choose a field of specialization, conduct research, and write a dissertation.

Essential Information

Linguistics is the study of language. Many linguistics PhD programs require students to engage in the general study of syntax and semantics in addition to a specialty area of focus. Doctoral candidates with an interest in how the brain processes language, for example, might choose to specialize in neurolinguistics, while those who study how computers mimic language processes in voice recognition and transcription technologies might pursue a computational linguistics concentration. Other specialties may include sociolinguistics, forensics and historical linguistics.

A master's degree in linguistics or a related field such as cognitive science is a prerequisite to the PhD program. Admission is generally competitive, with some schools requiring a minimum GPA of 3.5 or higher. Students must also submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, a research paper or writing sample, letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Graduation requirements for all specialties typically include the completion of one or two extensive research papers, a comprehensive exam and a doctoral dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Linguistics

During the course of the doctoral program, students must generally take a sequence of foreign language courses and/or demonstrate proficiency in a second language. Common courses in linguistics include:

  • Research methods
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Semantics
  • Syntax
  • Morphology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

A PhD in linguistics or applied linguistics prepares graduates for research and teaching careers at the collegiate level. Recent graduates often seek employment as adjunct faculty or assistant professors, usually with the goal to earn tenure and full faculty status. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that post-secondary English language and literature teachers, including linguistics teachers, earned a median annual salary of $61,990 as of May 2015, while post-secondary foreign language and literature teachers earned a median salary of $61,380 per year. The BLS projects a 13% increase in the number of jobs for post-secondary teachers in general from 2014-2024 due to population growth among traditional college age students and the large number of adults returning to school (

A doctoral degree in linguistics allows students to study and research about semantics and syntax along with specializations such as neurolinguistics, computational linguistics, sociolinguistics, forensics and historical linguistics. This graduate program prepares students to later become post-secondary teachers.

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