How to become a forensic linguist

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A forensic linguist is an expert trained in the role of language within our criminal justice system. Forensic linguists take a scientific approach in the field by applying linguistic theories and analytical methods to issues that arise in criminal and civil cases. They can play a role in solving crime and exonerating people wrong accused of a crime. Some examples where a forensic linguist might be used are in issues involving author identification, ransom notes, interrogation statements and patent disputes.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Master's degree or higher in Linguistics

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  1. 1

    Go to school. Get a degree, preferably a Master's degree or higher, in Linguistics. This amount of study also contributes to your credibility. As a forensic linguist, you may be called up to present expert testimony, so credentials are important.

  2. 2

    Study and gain a thorough understanding of linguistics as a social science. This includes phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguists and dialectology.

  3. 3

    Focus your studies specifically on forensic linguistics. Once you've completed a thorough study on linguistics, then you can apply that knowledge to the speciality of forensic linguistics.

  4. 4

    Find a university that offers a forensic linguistics program. There are degree programs, certificate programs (indicating proficiency training that results in certification) and classes. Some institutions offer summer programs as well.

  5. 5

    Join an organisation of colleagues. These groups are also a great resource to go for information on forensic linguistics.

  6. 6

    Subscribe to trade journals and publications.

  7. 7

    Build your credibility. Join the organisations, go to meeting, network with colleagues and publish articles in the appropriate journals. You need your education and expertise to firm up your credentials, so keep current in your field.

  8. 8

    Market yourself. Once you've completed your linguistics training, either take a job with a firm that provides forensic linguistics services or start your own firm. Get to know your local legal community, lawyers and law enforcement. It's a great way to get your expertise known and eventually get hired for your services.

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