Having a competitive edge in an academic or professional environment means being able to do something that goes beyond minimum expectations, or being able to look at a problem from a slightly different perspective. Linguistics can provide that competitive edge in several areas.
Linguistics and other cultures: Diversity is a major theme in the comparative study of languages, as it is in the anthropological study of other cultures. Languages around the world vary in obvious superficial ways (as in vocabulary) but also have deeper, structural differences. The study of these contributes to analytical and research skills that are transferable to other fields.
Linguistics and literature: Linguistic approaches to literary texts, including discourse analysis, study of lexical cohesion, analysis of dialects in literature, and stylistics, are increasingly popular strategies in literary criticism. For students whose primary interest is literature, knowledge of linguistics opens the door to promising, creative methods of inquiry.
Clinical linguistics: Clinical linguistics pays attention to a population with language difficulties, such as aphasic, language disordered, autistic, intellectually handicapped, emotionally and physically handicapped individuals who are speech impaired. The split is one of normal language vs. Language that requires special attention. Knowledge of linguistics gives students of speech pathology and language disorders a distinct advantage. Nearly all aspects of diagnosis and intervention of language and speech disorders require the ability to conduct a linguistic analysis of language samples, to determine the nature of the problem and the amount of progress made by a patient. Common problems can be assessed using standardized tests that come with instructions on how to administer the test, analyze the data, and interpret the results. Unfortunately in most clinical settings, other communication problems go unrecognized and untreated. Linguistics provides the key to filling this gap. With greater knowledge of linguistics, clinicians can apply standard field methods to collecting language samples, can analyze these samples using linguistic methods for phonology and syntax, and they can profit from journal articles that describe language development and disorders using theoretical approaches such as government and binding or autosegmental phonology.
Language and education: Our public schools must address the needs of many students who speak a nonstandard dialect of English, and also a growing number of students whose native language is not English. There is a growing demand for teachers who are certified to teach English as a second language, and there is a need for teachers and administrators with linguistic expertise to provide leadership on issues of dialect diversity. The CSU linguistics curriculum includes course work in both these areas, including courses that count toward TESOL Validation.