Linguists work with languages, not only as translators and interpreters but also as analysts, code breakers and developers of new computer languages and other artificial languages. As social scientists, linguists make lower salaries than many other professionals, but linguists employed in the private sector can earn salaries of around $100,000.
According to the salary data website PayScale, most linguists can expect salaries of between $40,000 and $80,000. Those with more education and experience earn higher salaries. The career information website State University reported that the starting salary for a linguist with a doctorate working in the private sector was $60,000.
Academic and Research Jobs
Linguists are social scientists and it is not uncommon for a linguist to hold a doctorate. Nearly every university in the United States features a Linguistics Department with a team of accredited linguists. Many research institutions also hire linguists. While academic positions often carry a lot of prestige, linguists working in academia make considerably less than those working for private companies, according to State University.
Military and Contract Jobs
High salaries are concentrated within the Department of Defense and their contractors. With sensitive missions and interests spread across dozens of countries, the federal government requires hordes of highly trained and experienced linguists specializing in obscure and difficult languages. PayScale reports that the highest salaries are concentrated around Department of Defense offices in Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, with salaries reaching into the $100,000 range.
Considerations and Benefits
The federal government and private companies pay top dollar to linguists with years of experience in a difficult and high-demand language. However, linguists often build careers around one or two languages or a language family, while the languages in demand change every five to 10 years. At the same time, one perk that comes with being a linguist is that nearly all sources of employment--universities, high-tech companies, the government and contractors--offer comprehensive benefits, such as vacation, health and dental insurance, and a number offer bonuses or pensions.