How to Become a Computational Linguist


Before setting off to meet the requirements of entering this profession, the first thing you need to do, is determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a computational linguist:


Those who become computational linguists are individuals who are interested in a challenging and rewarding career in the field of artificial intelligence. They are typically individuals with an interest in the structure of language that is in equal measure to their interest in application and software development. They also have an educational background in both of these areas.


Working in this profession requires the ability to visualize complex processes and solve complex problems. Computational linguistics, as with other application developers, are able to apply a great deal of concentration over a long period of time in order to complete a complicated task properly the first time.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a computational linguist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Computational Linguist

In most cases, you'll need a master’s or doctoral degree in a field related to computer science, or a bachelor’s degree combined with work experience developing natural language software in a commercial environment.


Due to the variety of skills and knowledge you will need to have for this career, you will need to develop a knowledge base in linguistics (specifically coursework that deals with syntax, semantics, phonetics and other structural aspects of language), mathematics, natural language processing and computer or software programming. Pursuing coursework in these areas will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in a career as a computational linguist.





What is a Computational Linguist? 

Computational linguists develop computer systems that deal with human language. They apply their training in computer science and linguistics to develop computer applications which facility communication between computers and humans by performing tasks such as speech recognition (e.g., Siri), speech synthesis, machine translation (e.g., Google Translate), grammar checking, text mining, and many others.



Typical Duties and Responsibilities

• Liaise with project leader to gain complete understanding of program requirements

• Improve natural language search technology resources

• Participate in projects that improve the core technology of computer programs and applications

• Build, test and enhance language models

• Ensure compliance with the procedural roadmap of the program

• Contribute to the development team by providing constructive ideas during design and interface discussions

•Write scripts or codes to convert data to internal models

•Implement algorithms (such as speech recognition and synthesis) and related software on hardware platforms

•Create systems to extract content from databases



Who Employs These Linguists?

Internships, part-time, full-time and contractual jobs for computational linguists are available with a variety of small, medium and large organizations that develop the following types of products and services:


• Software (including embedded software)

• Hardware

• Search engines

• Websites

• Telecommunications equipment and devices

• Operating systems

• Computer applications

• Databases and digital storage

• Consulting 

• Academic research and teaching





Skills and Traits Needed to Be Successful

To be successful in a career as a computational linguist, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only allow you to perform your job duties with competence; they will allow you to effectively deal with the challenges of this career.


• Knowledgeable in structural aspects of language (syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics)

• Excellent programming skills in C++/Java including object-oriented analysis and design

• Adept at high-level algorithmic software design and low-level code optimization

• Ability to develop software from existing code, detailed specification, or general conceptual outline

• Solid knowledge of analytic techniques, statistics, mathematical modeling

• Familiarity with embedded systems hardware, ADCs, DACs, ability to read schematics

• Knowledgeable in information retrieval

• Knowledgeable in machine learning for natural language applications

• Excellent interpersonal and communication skills

• Able to analyze complex problems

• Able to concentrate for long periods of time

• Remain patient and persistent with regards to work activities



Working Conditions in This Field

Computational linguists typically work in an office environment, although they may work from home. They typically work normal weekday working hours, although they may work in rotating shifts. They might be required to work overtime in order to meet projects deadlines or to debug programs that are not running properly.



Job Postings - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "Computational Linguist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Salary Level Typical to This Field

The salary level of computational linguists can vary depending on their personal qualifications, such as their level of experience and education, as well as the specific responsibilities of the job.


Computational Linguist Salary Canada (Alberta): According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Computer Programmers occupational group earn an average of $81,552 per year, or $40.22 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available for the rest of Canada at the time of writing (May 29, 2019).


Computational Linguist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Software Developers occupational group is $93,350 per year.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are career guides in our database for professions that are similar in nature to computational linguist:


Applications Programmer



Software Designer

Software Engineer




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Computer Programmer.” (March 3, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 7, 2019.

Computer and Information Technology:Software Developers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 7, 2019.

Linguistics:Careers: Computational Linguistics.” (n.d.). California State University - Long Beach website. Retrieved November 7, 2019.

Stories From Inbenta:So You Want to Be a Computational Linguist?” (September 22, 2016). Inbenta website. Retrieved November 7, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Computational Linguist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a computational linguist can be found on the following pages:


Computer Science Scholarships

Linguistics Scholarships

Software Engineering Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Areas of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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