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The Association for Computational Linguistics describes computational linguistics as the scientific study of language from a computational perspective.
Computational linguistics (CL) combines resources from linguistics and computer science to discover how human language works. Computational linguists create tools for critical tasks such as machine translation, speech recognition, speech synthesis, grammar checking, and text mining.
Top 10 Online Computational Linguistics Graduate Programs 2020
Typically, computer science (CS) departments at colleges and universities offer computational linguistics as a specialization, though some linguistics departments also offer it. Some CS departments don't offer CL as a formal specialization, but qualified students can often work with faculty to create their own focus area.
Computational linguistics graduate students take computer programming, math, and statistics courses. They examine subjects such as semantics, computational semantics, natural language processing, models in cognitive science, and phonology.
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Best Online Computational Linguistics Graduate Programs
A top-ranked private institution focused on technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a doctorate in linguistics that lets students design their own focus area. Since the 1960s when Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle led the linguistics program, MIT has garnered international recognition for its research and scholarship.
After meeting coursework requirements, linguistics students take a three-part general exam, including completing two workshop subjects during coursework, writing two research papers, and passing oral examinations. The requirements ensure that students build broad research strengths in linguistics before focusing on their dissertation.
Program topics and areas of learning at MIT include:
Computational modeling of language learning
Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, academic transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. The writing sample should reflect the applicant's ability to conduct scholarly research. Recommended samples include research reports, papers, and theses. All applicants must also provide a sample research summary of their proposed dissertation project.
At Stanford University, the Stanford Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group brings together faculty and graduate students in linguistics and computer science to advance the science of computer processing of human languages. Members of the group conduct research on computational linguistics, human language technology, and machine translation.
Graduate students can join the group by gaining admission to the Ph.D. in linguistics program or master's in computational linguistics program. Stanford's linguistics department lets graduate students create an individualized program of study, prioritizing flexibility.
Program topics and areas of learning at Stanford include:
Computer science with a focus on computational linguists
Linguistics with a focus on computational linguists
Natural language processing
The Ph.D. program receives around 150 applications annually and admits seven students. Both the Ph.D. and master's programs require applicants to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, a resume, and GRE scores.
Graduate students can choose from several degree options, including two master's degrees in computational science and engineering (CSE), which let students complete independent research projects focused on computation applications. Students can earn a one-year master of science in CSE or a two-year master of engineering in CSE.
Program topics and areas of learning at Harvard include:
Computational science and engineering
Natural language processing
Students interested in computational linguistics can strengthen their skills through a capstone graduate course, which asks students to apply concepts like machine learning to solve real-world problems.
At Carnegie Mellon University, the Language Technologies Institute (LTI) trains graduate students in natural language processing, computational linguistics, information extraction, and machine learning. Students can earn a Ph.D. in language and information technology or a master's degree in language technology, intelligent information systems, artificial intelligence, or computational data science.
The two-year master's in language technology incorporates two summers of research. The master's in intelligent information systems lets students concentrate on human language for language technologies, language technology application, or machine learning for language technologies. Doctoral students spend two years completing coursework before conducting research under a faculty advisor.
Program topics and areas of learning at CMU include:
Language and information technology
Intelligent information systems
Artificial intelligence and innovation
Computational data science
Applicants must submit GRE scores, official transcripts, a current resume, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. The five LTI graduate degrees let students choose a computational linguistic master's or doctoral degree aligned with their career goals.
One of the top-ranked public institutions in the world, the University of California, Berkeley benefits from its proximity to Silicon Valley. Graduate students can pursue a doctorate in linguistics with a focus on computational linguistics through the Berkeley Linguistics Graduate Program. The program incorporates computational and experimental methods and linguistic research into the curriculum.
During their first year, graduate students complete foundational coursework in areas like phonology and cognition. Doctoral classes in experimental phonetics; psycholinguistics; and language, computation, and cognition train students for research in their focus area. After completing coursework and passing qualifying exams, doctoral students must research, write, and defend a dissertation.
Program topics and areas of learning at Berkeley include:
Computation and experimental methods
Applicants must submit letters of recommendation, transcripts, a writing sample, and admissions essays. Berkeley's linguistics graduate program admits about 10% of applicants, making it highly competitive.
At Princeton University, graduate students can pursue a master's or doctoral degree with a focus on computational linguistics, natural language processing, or machine learning through the Department of Computer Science. Graduate students take coursework in machine learning, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, with the ability to conduct independent research in an area of interest.
The Center for Statistics and Machine Learning (CSML), established in 2014, brings together faculty and graduate students working on statistics, machine learning, and the data sciences. An interdisciplinary group, graduate students affiliated with CSML study methodological challenges in fields like computational linguistics.
Princeton also offers a graduate certificate in statistics and machine learning to complement departmental graduate programs. Students take courses in artificial intelligence, computer systems, and computational theory. The certificate helps linguistics and computer science students pursue machine learning research.
Program topics and areas of learning at Princeton include:
Graduate students at the University of Michigan can pursue a computational linguistics research area through the Department of Linguistics. The department enrolls over 30 doctoral students. In the computational linguistics research area, graduate students examine the intersection of computer and human language. In addition to machine translation and speech recognition, learners study computational models of language processing.
Doctoral students complete coursework on topics like phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics. All doctoral students take at least two courses outside the department to promote an interdisciplinary approach. After passing qualifying exams, doctoral students complete a dissertation under the supervision of faculty.
Program topics and areas of learning at U-M include:
Computational discovery and engineering
Prospective doctoral students must submit an application, a statement of purpose, a personal statement, and official transcripts. The linguistics department also requires three letters of recommendation and a written work sample.
At Columbia University, master's and Ph.D. students can pursue focus areas in natural language processing and spoken language processing through the Department of Computer Science. In these areas, learners study computational approaches to text and speech analysis and generation, examining machine translation, language generation, and question answering in multiple languages.
Coursework covers topics like language modeling, information extraction, and the role of linguistic concepts in language processing. Computational linguistics students can work with the Columbia NLP Group or the Center for Computational Learning Systems, interdisciplinary research groups that let students advance their training in a focused field.
Program topics and areas of learning at Columbia include:
Natural language processing
Information extraction and data mining
Information extraction, data mining
Applicants must submit research-oriented reference letters, GRE scores, and transcripts.
An Ivy League institution, Cornell University offers graduate degrees through the Linguistics Department. The department's strengths in computational linguistics, phonology, and language documentation prepare graduates for computational linguistics jobs. The Cornell Computational Linguistics Lab supports graduate students conducting theoretical and applied works on computational modeling.
The research group in neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics applies computational linguistics models to study the cognitive neuroscience of language. In addition, the Cornell Natural Language Processing Group brings together graduate students and researchers in computer science, information science, and linguistics.
Linguistics students take courses in computational linguistics, natural language learning, and neurolinguistics. The computer science department also hosts a natural language processing seminar and offers coursework in advanced language technologies, providing an interdisciplinary environment for computational linguistics students
Program topics and areas of learning at Cornell include:
Consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the country, Yale University dates back to 1701. Graduate students interested in computational linguistics can pursue a Ph.D. in linguistics and join an interdisciplinary research group known as Computational Linguistics at Yale (CLAY). The research group brings together students and researchers studying linguistics, computer science, and cognitive science and machine learning.
In the CLAY lab, graduate learners study abstract computational models and practical applications in language technology. Current research projects at CLAY include investigations into the representation of grammatical knowledge in neural networks, the construction of practical parsing systems, and learning biases in neural network models. CLAY hosts a weekly meeting to discuss recent research papers and current work by lab members.
Program topics and areas of learning at Yale include:
Applicants must submit information on their interests in research and potential faculty advisors, including interest in CLAY. Graduates typically work in academia or the tech industry.
From its Manhattan campus, New York University offers a doctoral degree with a focus area in computational linguistics from the Department of Linguistics. Learners study the fundamentals of linguistics before pursuing advanced courses and research in their focus area. In NYU's Machine Learning for Language group, linguistics learners study natural language understanding and natural language processing.
During a machine learning for language understanding class, learners explore machine learning methods with a focus on artificial neural networks, culminating in a research paper on artificial intelligence or computational linguistics. During natural language understanding courses, students learn about artificial intelligence research and its connection to naturally occurring human language. These classes prepare doctoral students for advanced research in computational linguistics.
Program topics and areas of learning at NYU include:
Natural language processing
Artificial neural networks
Applicants must submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a writing sample. The writing sample must include a term paper, senior essay, thesis, or publication.
At the University of Chicago, prospective computational linguists can earn a graduate degree through the Department of Linguistics. One of the oldest linguistics departments in the country, UChicago offers a theory-oriented focus with an empirical interest in languages. The department encourages interdisciplinary and interdepartmental study, including work with the computer science department on computational linguistics.
Doctoral students complete foundational courses in their first two years. UChicago offers a three-course computational linguistics sequence as part of its foundational courses. The curriculum also includes classes like mathematical foundations of computational linguistics, language learnability, and introduction to artificial intelligence. After completing coursework, students must submit qualifying papers and meet the department's language requirement before advancing to the candidacy phase.
Program topics and areas of learning at UChicago include:
Applicants must submit GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose describing their research area and reason for pursuing a graduate degree.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, graduate students in the Department of Linguistics can earn degrees in computational linguistics, computational semantics, or computational phonology. UCLA emphasizes linguistic theory, with a focus on fieldwork and experimental study. Graduate students can take a two-term computational linguistics sequence, which incorporates lecture and lab learning on theoretical linguistics and natural language processing.
The linguistics department admits eight students per year to its doctoral program, making it highly selective. UCLA also offers a computational linguistics master's degree for students planning to earn a doctorate. All graduate students complete core classes, write a master's thesis, and take field method courses and seminars. Doctoral students complete a dissertation in their research area.
Program topics and areas of learning at UCLA include:
Natural language processing
Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts. The statement of purpose should explain the applicant's background and their reasons for earning a linguistics graduate degree.
The University of Pennsylvania offers graduate degrees through the Department of Linguistics. The department lets students pursue interdisciplinary topics like computational linguistics, prioritizing collaboration with the computer science and psychology departments. Penn graduate students specializing in computational linguistics can join the computational linguistics research area, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students.
Penn runs the Linguistic Data Consortium, which compiles and distributes linguistic materials specifically for language engineering research. A valuable resource for computational linguists and researchers worldwide, the consortium hosts conferences and maintains a digital archive of papers in the field.
Program topics and areas of learning at Penn include:
Penn typically admits students seeking a doctorate in linguistics, though it may accept candidates pursuing a computational linguistics master's degree. Applicants must submit transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and writing samples.
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington ranks as one of the top public universities in the country. The school offers a master of science in computational linguistics with on-campus and online options. The computational linguistics master's degree prepares students to pursue careers in tech or a doctorate in computational linguistics.
Master's students complete nine courses, and full-time students can earn their degree in one year. Students take four core computational linguistics classes, two linguistics classes, and three electives. Coursework incorporates hands-on work, research, and collaborative projects to provide the skills needed for computational linguistics jobs. Master's students culminate the degree with an internship or thesis.
Program topics and areas of learning at UW include:
Natural language processing
The program admits applicants with a background in linguistics and computer science. Coursework in programming, algorithms, linguistics, and statistics prepare undergraduates for the computational linguistics master's program.
At the University of Southern California, the Department of Linguistics enrolls 35-40 graduate students studying different areas of linguistics, including computational linguistics. During USC's five-year doctoral program, graduate students conduct research, present papers at conferences, and publish their work in journals.
Doctoral students also complete three graduate seminars in linguistics and advanced courses in their research area. After meeting coursework requirements, students must pass a qualifying examination, which includes written and oral requirements. Doctoral candidates then complete a dissertation in their research area.
The linguistics department admits 6-9 doctoral students annually. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose explaining their linguistics background and reason for pursuing a computational linguistics Ph.D. at USC. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a resume, and a research paper.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers one of the only undergraduate computational linguistics degrees in the country, in addition to a computational linguistics graduate program. The schools Ph.D. in linguistics lets graduate students pursue a specialization in computational linguistics.
The program encourages students to conduct original research. The Zea Mays Center for Computational Linguistics brings together faculty and graduate students conducting computational language research in an interdisciplinary group. Through natural language processing seminars and a reading group, doctoral students strengthen their computational linguistics training.
Program topics and areas of learning at Illinois include:
Natural language processing
Students complete coursework during their first two years, followed by qualifying exams. In the second stage of the program, doctoral students complete additional coursework and a second qualifying examination. In the final stage, students research, write, and defend a dissertation. The program admits students with a bachelor's or master's degree.
Founded in 1891, the California Institute of Technology ranks as one of the top universities in the country. Caltech offers a research area in statistics and machine learning that allows graduate students to pursue a computational linguistics master's or doctoral degree.
Graduate students conduct research on computational linguistics, mathematical linguistics, and machine learning while earning their degree. A graduate course in mathematical and computational linguistics covers models of acquisition, learnability, and communicative efficiency.
Program topics and areas of learning at Caltech include:
Prospective Caltech graduate students must submit a CV, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. Caltech also requests a statement of purpose and GRE scores. While Caltech admits applicants from outside computer science and applied mathematics, students benefit from a background in the field.
Established in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin offers both a master's and doctoral degree with a concentration in computational linguistics through the Department of Linguistics. The interdisciplinary concentration trains students in the theory, technologies, and applications of computational linguistics. Students participate in a cross-departmental reading group on natural language learning and work with faculty in multiple departments.
During their first year, students take core linguistics classes. UT Austin offers computational linguistics classes on computational semantics, computing for text analysis, natural language learning, and applied text analysis. Graduate students also take computer science courses on topics like natural language processing and machine learning.
Program topics and areas of learning at UT Austin include:
Natural language processing
Applied text analysis
Prospective students must submit a statement of purpose detailing their interests in linguistics and specialization areas and their plans for graduate study. Applicants also submit three letters of recommendation and a sample research paper.
An Ivy League institution located in Rhode Island, Brown University dates back to 1764. Graduate students can earn a computational linguistics degree from the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences. The department focuses on studies of language processing, linguistic structure, and computational processes.
Brown offers a Ph.D. in psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics, with the option to focus on computational linguistics. The program incorporates seminars, scholarly projects, and research to develop the skills necessary for computational linguistics jobs. The computational linguistics concentration lets students work with faculty from multiple departments to customize the degree around their interests.
Program topics and areas of learning at Brown include:
The highly selective admissions process interviews 15% of applicants and offers admission to half of the interviewees. Admitted students receive five years of tuition remission and a graduate stipend to support their studies.
At the University of California, San Diego, graduate students can earn a computational linguistics Ph.D. from the Linguistics Department. The department focuses on theoretical and experimental approaches to language, with research areas in computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition. Linguistics students can collaborate with faculty in the computer science, cognitive science, psychology, and anthropology departments.
Doctoral students receive theoretical and research training, taking classes in core linguistic analysis fields and learning how to conduct experimental investigations. Research training covers topics like field methods and documentation of understudied languages, computational modeling, neurolinguistics, and language acquisition. Theoretical training covers core topics like phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.
With only seven required courses, doctoral students can specialize their training by pursuing courses in a focus area, such as computational linguistics. After completing coursework, students research, write, and defend their dissertation before a faculty committee.
At Duke University, graduate students can pursue a computational linguistics master's or doctoral degree through the Department of Computer Science. The inDuke program lets computational linguistics graduate students collaborate with industry partners on research projects.
Students can concentrate on areas like machine learning and natural language processing systems. Machine learning courses prepare graduate students to conduct advanced computational linguistics work. Natural language processing learners study theories of semantics and build natural language interactive systems.
Program topics and areas of learning at Duke include:
The master's program receives over 650 applicants each year, with highly competitive admissions. Duke recommends a strong background in computer science, particularly for applicants who did not major or minor in computer science during their undergraduate degree. The Ph.D. program provides full financial support for admitted students, and first-year doctoral students can take advantage of summer funding incentives to complete research.
Purdue University offers graduate linguistics programs for students interested in a computational linguistics master's or doctoral degree. Both graduate programs let students customize the degree around their interests, with a strong interdisciplinary focus. First-year graduate learners study the foundations of linguistics to develop their research interests. Advanced coursework focuses on the student's research area.
The School of Interdisciplinary Studies houses the linguistics department, underscoring the attention to multi-disciplinary training. The linguistics program builds strengths in linguistic and psycholinguistic development, language acquisition, and fieldwork. The curriculum blends theoretical and experimental approaches to linguistics.
Applicants must submit transcripts, an academic writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose describing their academic and professional goals. Purdue also considers an applicant's background in linguistics, research, and writing.
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Northwestern University offers a Ph.D. in linguistics through the Department of Linguistics. The program integrates theory with advanced experimental and computational methods. Graduate students benefit from access to laboratory facilities, interdisciplinary opportunities, and full funding for their studies.
Students complete core courses before choosing from electives in areas like computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The program emphasizes integrative research. Computational linguistics students can customize a research plan around their interests.
In addition to the linguistics program, graduate students can earn a master of science in artificial intelligence at Northwestern. The program incorporates technical skills to train students in machine intelligence and human-machine interactions.
Program topics and areas of learning at Northwestern include:
Applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a CV or resume. They must also submit a writing sample and statement of purpose. The highly competitive program typically admits 4-6 students per year.
The flagship campus of Wisconsin's public university system, the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a Ph.D. in linguistics through the Language Sciences Department. Learners study topics like computational linguistics, human-computer interaction, and machine learning. Students receive foundational linguistics theory training before working with a faculty advisor to create an individualized research program.
In addition to a Ph.D. in linguistics, the department offers a Ph.D. minor in linguistics for graduate students in other departments, like computer science. The ability to minor at the graduate level lets students pursue an interdisciplinary course of study. Research groups in human-computer interaction, machine learning, and artificial intelligence bring together faculty and graduate students to solve complex interdisciplinary research problems.
Program topics and areas of learning at UW include:
Linguistics doctoral students generally complete the program in 5-6 years. Graduate students spend the first 3-4 years meeting coursework requirements, which includes writing two original research papers and defending them before a preliminary exam committee. The program then allows two years for dissertation research and defense.
To determine a school's influence, reputation, and faculty strength, we used data from AcademicInfluence.com, which tracks the scholarly publications and citations of professors, graduate students, and alumni of the ranked universities.
Natural Language Processing
Both computational linguistics and natural language processing (NLP) apply formal training in linguistics, computer sciences, and machine learning. NLP allows computers to understand, analyze, and derive meaning from human language in an intelligent and useful way. NLP professionals organize and structure knowledge to perform tasks such as translation, text segmentation, and speech recognition.
Both computational linguistics and natural language processing (NLP) apply formal training in linguistics, computer sciences, and machine learning.
NLP systems, with their ability to analyze language for meaning, perform tasks such as correcting grammar, automatically translating languages, and converting speech to text. NLP allows machines to communicate with people on conventional language-based terms, which makes it an important factor in cognitive computing.
Data scientists use NLP for log analysis of security models, risk management and regulatory compliance, and demand forecasting. Companies use NLP to improve the accuracy of documentation, enhance the efficiency of documentation processes, and identify the most pertinent information in large databases.
Most computational linguistics jobs require at least a master's degree. To pursue a master's degree, candidates must first hold a bachelor's degree. While several undergraduate majors prepare students for graduate study in computational linguistics, a bachelor's in linguistics or computer science provides ideal training for a master's program.
Certain undergraduate courses may help students gain admission to a master's program, such as courses in morphology, semantics, and statistics. Undergraduate classes in artificial intelligence and machine learning also prepare graduates for master's programs in computational linguistics.
Many computational linguistics master's programs set prerequisite requirements for admission. These requirements may include programming knowledge, such as the ability to program in specific languages, like Python, C++, or Java. Many programs also require or prefer applicants to have taken an undergraduate linguistics course, statistics or probability class, and foreign language courses.
Most graduate programs require a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and transcripts. They may also ask applicants to complete a skills assessment or provide samples of their academic work.
Computational Linguistics Careers
Computational linguistics is the most commercially viable branch of linguistics. Computational linguists can work for high-tech companies, creating and testing models for improving or developing new software in areas such as speech recognition, grammar checkers, and dictionary development. They can also work in computer-mediated language learning and artificial intelligence or in research groups at universities and government research labs.
Examples of Companies That Employ Computational Linguists
SRI STAR laboratory
Computational Linguistics Jobs and Salaries
Below are some common careers and average salaries for graduates with a master's degree in computational linguistics.
Career and Salary Info for Master's in Computational Linguistics Graduates
Machine Learning Engineer
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