How Do I Start a Career in Linguistic Anthropology?

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  • Written By: Emily Daw
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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A linguistic anthropologist studies the relationship between language and culture. To begin a career in linguistic anthropology, you will need to complete relevant education, learn one or more languages, and apply for jobs. Most linguistic anthropologists are employed in either academia or government.

A bachelor's degree is the first step toward a job in linguistic anthropology. If you do not yet have a bachelor's degree, you should consider selecting a major in anthropology, linguistics or a foreign language. This degree will usually take four years to complete.

During the last year of your bachelor's degree, you will probably want to begin applying to graduate school. Some research assistant jobs are available to those with only an undergraduate degree in anthropology, but most jobs require either a master's or Ph.D. Some graduate schools allow prospective students to begin their Ph.D. programs immediately after finishing a bachelor's degree, but most programs require completion of a master's degree first.

Completing a graduate degree in linguistic anthropology requires several steps. Generally, you will first take coursework in principles of anthropology and linguistics. You will also be required to study foreign languages, either ancient or modern, depending on the program and your research interests.


The next step is completion of a thesis for a master's degree or dissertation for a Ph.D. In linguistic anthropology, this is often a work of ethnography, which is research and writing on a particular culture. Frequently, ethnography requires living among a people group long enough to integrate into their society. In the case of linguistic anthropology, this involves studying their language and noting ways that language influences sociological relations.

Once you have finished your graduate degree, you are ready to begin applying for jobs as a linguistic anthropologist. If you have a Ph.D., you may be able to apply for tenure-track professor jobs at universities. A master's degree may qualify you to work as an adjunct professor. Some government careers in linguistic anthropology are also available. For example, the US government may hire linguistic anthropologists as advisers on cultural matters regarding regions where they have national interests.

There are a number of ways for finding linguistic anthropology jobs. Professors and researchers or the career center at the university where you worked on your degree may be able to refer you to open positions. Many job openings are also posted online.


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