Linguistics B.A.

When you pursue a B.A. degree in the Department of Linguistics, you immerse yourself in the scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of grammar, syntax, semantics, and phonetics.

The faculty excels in teaching and research in specific branches of linguistics, including linguistic analysis, language structure, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, comparative linguistics, structural linguistics and the linguistic study of African languages. The Department of Linguistics is part of the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences.

The degree also prepares you with advanced proficiency in a single foreign language and with a field methods requirement, in which you gain practical skills and hands-on experience in research on language structure and use.

As a Linguistics major, you may choose to focus on either linguistic analysis or on sociolinguistics in your electives and field method courses. You are also welcome to make your own topic selections among all the courses offered by the department.

The department also offers an Interdepartmental B.A. major in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Students majoring in other subjects can choose to minor in Linguistics.

Students can also choose from two degree programs in Computational Linguistics, an interdisciplinary field that addresses the use of computers to process or produce human language:

Coursework

Getting started

The department offers two introductory courses that can also be used as electives in the Linguistics major:

  • LING-L 103 Introduction to the Study of Language
  • LING-L 203 Introduction to Linguistic Analysis

 LING-L 103 provides a broad background in language structure and use. LING-L 203 introduces more technical language structure training, including such topics as sound systems, word structure, and sentence structure. Either course sufficiently prepares students for core Linguistics courses.

If you plan to acquire advanced proficiency in a language new to you, start with a 100-level introductory course in the fall semester. If you have prior foreign language experience, contact the Linguistics academic advisor to find out how to test for proficiency and apply for special credit.

Tracks and concentrations

Students pursuing the Linguistics degree can focus on linguistic analysis or on sociolinguistics, through electives as well as through the field methods requirement. Choosing a focus is not required, however, and most Linguistics students are interested in all aspects of language.

Students who wish to study computational linguistics may want to opt for the Computational Linguistics Bachelor of Science degree. Contact the academic advisor to discuss your specific interests.

Upper level coursework

The Linguistics major includes 300-level core courses in Phonetics, Phonology, and Syntax. You have two options for fulfilling the field methods requirement, choosing from:

  • LING-L 431 Field Methods (fall semester only)
  • LING-L 441 Field Methods for Sociolinguistics (spring semester only)

Students enjoy some flexibility in choosing electives. Since many majors combine linguistics with study in a foreign language or in language development, one elective for the Linguistics major may come from a related field.

Options for completing the language structure requirement include upper-level course offerings. Students must also prove language proficiency at the 300 level of a single foreign language.

Contact the academic advisor to discuss the best course options to meet your interests and goals.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. You have plenty of room in your degree program to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.

Linguistics students often complement their major with coursework in foreign language departments, including East Asian Languages and Cultures, French and Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures. These are just a few of the many options available.

Coursework in Anthropology, Computer Science, Informatics, Latino Studies, Psychology, English, International Studies, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Speech and Hearing Sciences, and many other areas can also complement the major. Contact the academic advisor to explore your interests and options.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in linguistics you work with an international faculty familiar with a wide variety of language systems, structures, and patterns. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

As your interests develop, you may want to take an independent readings course under the guidance of faculty. Talk with the academic advisor, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, or your instructor about this possibility. Advanced students have sometimes earned credit as undergraduate research assistants to individual faculty members.

Honors

Outstanding students, particularly those aspiring to enter graduate school, are eligible to apply to the Honors Program in Linguistics during their junior or senior year. 

Honors students complete Readings in Linguistics - Honors (LING-L 399) and an Honors Project (LING-L 499) under the guidance of a faculty advisor. After meeting certain academic benchmarks, they present their project before an Honors Committee. 

If you are interested in Honors, consult the Linguistics Director of Undergraduate Studies, as well as faculty members with whom you wish to work.

High-achieving students may be recognized for academic excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Resources for pursuing scholarships and awards include:

Internships

Internships allow you to gain professional experience and contacts while honing your knowledge and skills in linguistics. One of your best opportunities for gaining experience is with Linguist List, the premier online web resource for the international linguistics community, located at IUB. Other opportunities exist to work with Linguistics faculty members during summer sessions.

You might also seek overseas study programs with internships. Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 70 languages. Linguistics students often enjoy delving into two or three languages at once.

The current cohort of Linguistics majors has studied 31 languages, the most popular being Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese. You can join the proud few who have also explored Quechua, Hindi, Dutch, Korean, Swahili, or Turkish. The motto of many of Linguistics students seems to be: "So many languages, so little time to study them all."

Here are just a few of the language resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

As a Linguistics major or minor, you have excellent opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills by studying abroad. Linguistics students have recently pursued coursework in the following IU-sponsored or co-sponsored study abroad programs:

  • Aix-en-Provence Spring Semester Program -- France
  • Seville-CIEE-Liberal Arts Semester Program -- Spain
  • Pune-Alliance Semester Program -- India
  • Freiburg Spring Semester Program -- Germany
  • Canterbury AY or Spring Semester Program -- England
  • Nagoya AY or Semester Program -- Japan
  • Bologna AY or Semester Program -- Italy

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations by contacting your academic advisor as well as the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

The Undergraduate Linguistics Club, UnderLings, offers Linguistics students the opportunity to plan and lead events, connecting with professional linguists at IUB and other colleges and universities.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

IU Bloomington and the greater Bloomington community offer many opportunities to volunteer your time and talents, activities that enhance your knowledge and skills while serving others. Linguistics students have volunteered for:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

There are many professional organizations for language lovers, including:

For more information about professional involvement in linguistics, consult the faculty of the Department of Linguistics.

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, nonprofit organizations.

Build your skills

Through the major

The Linguistics B.A. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Cultural awareness: gain knowledge and understanding of the interconnectedness among language, culture, and society
  • Language competence: communicate proficiently in at least one language other than English
  • Critical thinking and source analysis: develop skills in gathering and evaluating linguistic data based on theory and cultural context
  • Ethical sensitivity: understand and exercise principles of working with human subjects
  • Research expertise: develop evidence-based arguments, defend your own position, and make informed oral and written presentations

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Create and/or edit written reports
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career advisor at the Walter Center for Career Achievement.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Join one or more of the new Career Communities to determine if the path you are considering aligns with your short- and long-term goals. Consult with community facilitators, connect with employers, and learn with fellow students about educational preparation, employment opportunities, insider tips, industry-related interview questions, and more.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. Linguistics students are encouraged to take ASCS-Q 299, College to Career III: Market Yourself for the Job and Internship Search. In the course, you gain proficiency in writing resumes, crafting cover letters, navigating interviews, and other skills that will help you transition from college to new horizons.

The job market

The employment outlook is positive for students with a B.A. degree in Linguistics, especially if they have a second major. With the acceleration of global linguistic and cultural assimilation, the need for skilled language teachers, conservationists, translators, and interpreters continues to rise, as well as the need for skilled workers in the high-tech industry.

Linguistics majors are noted for their attention to detail and strong analytical skills. They can take their education in many directions, whether moving directly into a career or going on to graduate or professional studies.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: education at all levels, including staffing college and university administrative offices and teaching abroad; non-governmental organizations, tourism and recreation; journalism; community outreach; business communications; state and federal government agencies; and translation/literacy organizations.

Linguistics majors can become educators, higher education and business administrative support personnel, educational and community outreach coordinators for non-profit and government agencies, journalists, recreational facility administrators, language and research lab technicians, high-tech experts, and social media specialists, among many other options.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Talk with Linguistics faculty, the academic advisor, career advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of Linguistics.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as:

Using these and other resources, your career advisor can help you put together a unique post-graduate short-term experience, whether in the United States or abroad.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A major in Linguistics will also prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as computational linguistics, applied linguistics, speech and hearing sciences, human-computer interaction, social work, international development, public policy, and telecommunications.

With careful planning and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions, including nursing or public health administration.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Linguistics have gone into careers in academia, the high-tech industry, government, and non-profit organizations.

Examples of graduate programs offered at IU include:

Alumni connections

The Department of Linguistics sponsors an annual Alumni Weekend and publishes newsletters to keep Linguistics alumni informed of departmental events and accomplishments.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

The Department of Linguistics attracts students who love the broad study of language. They enjoy studying foreign languages, and typically share some of the following qualities:

  • Desire to gain speaking and writing proficiency in more than one language
  • Interest in language structure and construction
  • Fascination with the importance of language in human life and society
  • Enthusiasm for wordplay and its use in analyzing language
  • Concern for language variation, history and preservation
  • Thirst for travel and study in other countries

Learn more

Contact the Linguistics academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
kherndon@indiana.edu