I studied Linguistics and TESOL and had a wonderful experience teaching at the ELC. I then decided it was time for a new adventure and got my MBA. I’m so excited about applying the skills that I acquired as a linguist in a business setting! My background in linguistics has served me well and set me apart from others in the business world. My only advice is this: try something new!
Chris Rosenquist Williams
Don’t ever underestimate the power of education. Going back to school is always a game-changer if you use that education to expand your world-view. Educated people use many different viewpoints to find answers to research questions, and innovation is frequently driven by inspiration received through study, thought, and discussion.
I wish I could offer some reasonable advice, but there are just so many students with different goals, that I don’t think I could say something to everyone. (Dr. Melby used to always ask me what I wanted to do after I graduate any time I asked him for advice, I think I know why…) Anyway, I would say: “Learn a programming language! If you don’t enjoy it, then quit, but you won’t know if you don’t try.” I had no idea that I would love programming so much until Dr. Melby told me to take a class that required it (he didn’t realize that I didn’t already know how to program…)
Become involved in one of the regional TESOL affiliates to build leadership skills and networking.
My advice for current students is to not take professors for granted. By staying after class or utilizing office hours I was able to learn much more from my teachers than the limited class times would have allowed. Enjoy getting your education, enjoy life along the way, and get all the teaching experience possible while you are a student. I did that and got a good job in this field. Many of my jobs/teaching experiences as a student came through emails from the Linguistics department, so take the opportunities when they arise, it is worth it.
I would advise current students to not take professors for granted. By staying after class or utilizing office hours I was able to learn much more from my teachers than the limited class times would have allowed.
My one piece of advice for any college student, but especially for a linguistics student, is to do an internship. In fact, do a bunch of them. Every summer do something different if you’d like. It will help you to figure out what you want to do with your degree and help you explore your future career options. It will also help you network, which is priceless. I wish I had done an internship every summer and explored more.
Join a research group as early as possible, and get a mentor – a professor who is doing things you are interested in. Ask if they have any research projects they’d like you to work on. Also, seek their feedback as you work on your projects. Their advice is invaluable. After talking with many BYU alumni who have gone on to other schools, I repeatedly hear that BYU has some of the most helpful, student-oriented faculty in the country. Benefit from their mentorship while you can.
If you are a graduate student in the Linguistics department, I encourage you to attend professional conferences and develop your professional network as much as you can. This will certainly help you in your academic endeavors whether you decide to pursue your Ph.D. or work as a teacher. Best wishes to you all!
It’s never too early to start applying for jobs. The experience Robb gained by applying for jobs (even those he was under-qualified or over-qualified for) helped him hone his interviewing skills and determine what type of job would best match his interests and goals.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help; try to find out what your interests are and how they can go with your professors’; take advantages of the resources on campus. I wish I had known that I didn’t have to be afraid. However, you never know until you take steps.
I wish I had known to start slower with the coursework – I wanted to take all the classes I could fit, like I did as an undergrad, but I ended up getting burned out too early. I would tell a new grad student to do all their reading – you can’t skate by without it like you did as an undergrad – and to make friends with classmates, because they will become their greatest help and cheerleaders along the way.
I would not delay in selecting those professors who you feel would be the best advisers to you as you move forward with your thesis. Pick those that you know well and have good relationships with, but that also have specialties and interests in the areas of linguistics where you think your thesis might be focused. Work closely with them and be in contact often on the progress of your thesis and the process will be much smoother and much faster than it would be trying to do it all on your own. They will gladly help you and guide you. I felt that my MA program went very well, even from the start, but I suppose I would have known that creating a thesis isn’t really such a daunting project once you actually get going on it. It can, in all actuality, be one of the most fun things you have worked on during your entire education if you pick the right thing!
Get as much computer experience as possible. No matter how much you use your degree in the future, you’ll probably be staring at a computer screen more often than you think.
The Linguistics program helped me develop several skills that I use on a daily basis in my job, including critical analysis learned from coursework, effective communication from class discussions and writing papers, teamwork from group classwork and involvement with research groups, and project design and management from a number of research projects. I enjoy work with customers all over the country, as well as internal projects where I manage teams to improve our software’s implementation, training, use, and functionality
If you follow the standard path, BYU’s Linguistic MA program will fully prepare you for entrance into a PhD program or a TESOL related job. If either of those are your goals, then commit yourself and you’ll be happy with the results. If you want a “computational” linguistics degree out of this program, prepare for 2.5-3 years. You’ll most likely need to work in a CS minor on top of the computational courses offered by the program. This will require extra dedication and careful planning to properly execute. The result will be WELL worth the work. Every job in the private sector related to linguistics today either requires or strongly prefers computational skills. The compensation and job security for these jobs, again, is well worth the work it will take to gain the skills. My best advice for selecting and completing your thesis within two years is to meet with many (if not all) the professors in your first semester, ask them what projects they’re working on, and attach yourself to one of them as quickly as possible. It takes most students a full year to complete their thesis, start to finish. If you want to graduate in 2 years, you’ll want to be starting your prospectus by the end of your 2nd semester. The great thing about deciding on a thesis in this manner is that often you can be hired as a research assistant because you are working on the task for a professor
Map out your plan and follow through. Decide when you will take your classes, when you will graduate, and when you will do an internship or research. Work backwards to schedule as you COMMUNICATE with your chair. Then do it!
Get up early and do as much as you can before school! It made all the difference for me and many of my classmates who also finished early or on time.
Something that worked very well for me was finding a thesis chair I wanted to work with and then choosing a topic from what they were interested in. This way they were equally invested in my research and helped drive it along. I also planned out my academic schedule for those two years and stuck to it. I was able to finish in 2 years while having a baby between semesters, so I’d say it worked pretty well.
Don’t reinvent the wheel when selecting an area of research. When it came time for me to nail down a thesis topic, I met with some faculty members to discuss their research and the projects in which they could use my help. By choosing research of a professor’s interest (or, better yet, already underway), you save yourself a lot of headache and can rest assured that you won’t be stumbling around in the dark. It doesn’t have to be your dream topic; it should teach you how to conduct good research and be doable within two years. Plus, if you end up with a topic you didn’t expect to pursue, you now have the opportunity to become an expert in something totally new to you.
The most important part of grad school is having a stress outlet. You will be stressed your first semester. Everyone was. The people who had stress outlets and made time for them, whether it was running, horseback riding, or a music group, were the people who finished their theses the fastest. You will never have time, so you have to make time. Also know that it is impossible to do all of the readings unless you learn how to skim. I once had 150 pages of reading for just one night of homework. So get good at learning how to read fast.
I took advantage of taking classes outside the department for some of my electives because they related to my thesis, and those were my favorite classes that I took. Don’t just take a class for convenience. Take subjects that you want to learn more about.
Relationships are key in grad school. Work together on projects and have cohort parties. Also, it is much more important to have an advisor with whom you have a good relationship rather than an advisor who is an expert in the field.
When writing your thesis, you can have your first three chapters done months in advance before you collect all of your data. Do yourself a favor and do a really good job writing those ahead of time and show them to your committee before you even start collecting data. You might have some rewriting later, but it won’t be nearly as bad if they are checked off early.
If possible, get to know the other humanities grad students outside the linguistics department. I have had more job offer notices from the English grad students I knew than from people In linguistics.
Our department is good at a lot of things, but it is terrible for getting teaching experience. If that is something you want on your resume, apply to be a Writing 150 teacher in the University Writing department. They pay super well and you get the teaching experience you will need in order to become adjunct faculty (if that is something you want to do in the future).