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FAQs about Majoring in Cognitive Science and Linguistics

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Aja Altenhof in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered



Cognitive science and linguistics might not be some of the more popular majors, but they have much to offer. Both involve some interesting research and interdisciplinary work—you’ll be able to explore different fields while still concentrating on a broader area of interest. In this article, you’ll get answers to some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQs) about cognitive science, including career prospects and potential concentrations.


What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get with Linguistics or Cognitive Science Degrees?




Linguists can have jobs in academia or research. Outside of this, they sometimes go on to teach English as a foreign language, either abroad or in schools. Many also pursue speech pathology, which helps children with speech disorders. Linguists who are fluent in multiple languages often become translators.


Currently, tech companies are actively seeking out linguistics majors for natural language processing. There are openings for computational linguists at all the big tech companies, such as Google or Facebook, to help program and work on their artificial intelligence (AI) programs. This part of the field is growing rapidly.


Cognitive Science


Cognitive science has an even larger job market. Many different fields encompass cognitive science, so you can choose different elements of your major. Psychology, biology, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and more play a factor in the study of cognitive science.


Because it’s such a broad discipline, you’re not limited in your career choice. You can go into academia, of course. You can also go into tech and work as an analyst or a programmer. You could teach or work at a nonprofit. You could also pursue law school or business school. 


In the major, you’ll gain the tools needed to get a job in many different industries. If you’re doing some programming work, that’s both computer science and math. If you study more theory, then you’ll pick up on the critical thinking skills needed to help you succeed in several different careers. Cognitive science lets you study a wide variety of subjects and can allow you to break into many fields. 


How Should I Decide on My Area of Concentration?


Think about what, specifically, interests you in cognitive science. Is it language? Is it the brain? Is it some big philosophical question? Run all of these through Google Scholar or search the internet more broadly. There are several resources out there that can help you narrow down what you’re interested in.


While majoring in cognitive science or linguistics or a combination of the two, you should try to find balance. Try to discover what your real passion is. Linguistics and cognitive science pair well together, but if you’re not sure that you want to study linguistics, you don’t have to. Cognitive science has many different concentrations; you should try to take classes, or at least do a lot of research, in the different areas before you decide.


What Kinds of Opportunities Did Your School Have for Your Majors?


At the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), there is an undergraduate linguistic society where students can hang out and bounce ideas off of each other. UPenn also has a hub for cognitive science, which helps bring the different fields within the discipline together. 


If you’re interested in cognitive science, do some internet sleuthing when looking at colleges. Check to see if they have these interdisciplinary centers as they’re great places to meet other majors. Many schools also have events where scholars in the field can come together, and some will have lecture series and guest speakers.


Cognitive science majors may also be able to participate in programming boot camps, professional development activities for cognitive science majors, and reading groups. If you see a school that offers these types of things, try to get on the mailing list—you’ll get all sorts of opportunities that way. You should also sign up for the email list for your major because that will feed you some cool things to do.


These mailing lists will help you see when new research positions become available, too. Even if you’re somewhat new to the major, you should still apply and see where it takes you. You might not have any research experience, but you have to start somewhere.


Did You Ever Second-Guess Your Majors or Career Path?


Many people come to college thinking they’ll study something other than cognitive science. Often, people in college end up switching majors. You should expect some periods when you’re not sure that you’re on the right path, but take those times as chances to try new things. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the path that you set. Take classes that interest you, and if you find yourself leaning toward a class you didn’t expect you’d enjoy, feel free to take more of those classes. It’s fine to find that your interests are changing.