Forensic Linguistics Careers, Jobs and Salaries

What can you do with a master’s degree in forensic linguistics?

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the science of language. It is the study of language structure, how languages vary and how language influences personal interactions. Linguists investigate the nature and function of language.

The science of linguistics is a multidisciplinary field. Researches try to better understand how language is stored in the human brain and how it connects to neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology and computer science.

This allows for broad application of linguistics and forensic linguistics in multiple career fields.

What does a forensic linguist do?

Illustration of forensic linguistics.

A forensic linguist performs language analysis on written or recorded documents to help solve crimes. A forensic linguist studies dialect, grammar, sentence construction, phonetics and other linguistic areas to determine authenticity and ensure correct interpretation.

A forensic linguists may analyze:

  • Contracts
  • Wills
  • Confessions
  • Phone call transcripts
  • Suicide notes
  • Trademarks
  • Witness statements
  • Ransom letters
  • Courtroom transcripts
  • Texts
  • Emails
  • Product warnings
  • Police interview transcripts

Where do forensic linguists work?

Forensic linguists work mainly as consultants and assist law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prevention of crimes. They offer expert opinions in legal matters, court proceedings, criminal and civil investigations.

Forensic linguists work with law firms on cases involving copyright infringement, defamation and trademark issues and violations.

The federal government hires linguists and forensic linguists for the Foreign Service, the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Education.

FBI linguists begin their careers as contract linguists. They use their knowledge of other cultures and languages to help the FBI fulfill its mission to project the United States from international and domestic threats. Linguists work with a team to defend the country against foreign counterintelligence threats, cases of corruption, espionage, cybercrime and other unlawful offenses.

CIA linguists may teach people who need to learn a language or about a culture for assignments in a foreign country.

How much do forensic linguists get paid?

The average salary for a forensic linguist is $68,340 according to An entry-level linguist earns an average of $51,594, while more experienced linguists earn an average salary of $109,500.

How to become a forensic linguist

Depending on the career path that you wish to pursue, there are many ways to start your collegiate career.

A forensic linguist may take the following path to start a career:

  • Receive a bachelor’s degree: You may choose to start immediately on your path as a linguist and choose to a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. Degrees in English, criminal justice, law or other related fields will also provide a solid foundation.
  • Pursue a master’s degree: This is where you will see the bulk of your education focus on forensic linguistics, law and criminal behavior. You will learn concepts such as profiling, legal ethics and forensic law.
  • Gain experience or earn a doctorate degree: After receiving your master’s degree, gaining experience in the field is often the best opportunity to advance your knowledge. Careers right out of college may be found working in law enforcement or with court systems.

Having in-depth knowledge of linguistic analysis techniques is not the only skills you should have. Having the following skill set will also help you in your career:

  • Observational skills
  • Patience
  • Determination and competitiveness
  • Curiosity
  • Attention to detail


PennWest California Master's Degree
Find out more about PennWest California's M.A. in Criminal Justice: Forensic Linguistics degree.

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