How to Become a Philologist in the US

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The early Bible was written in three ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. How exactly do we know this? The answer is simple. Philology!

Philologists are researchers who study the languages written in historical sources such as manuscripts. They strive to understand the origin and speakers of these languages and establish their connection to modern languages. To join this profession, you must be willing to hit the books for several years.

What Do Philologists Do?

The work of philologists involves:

  • Studying the structure and development of specific ancient languages
  • Classifying ancient and modern languages according to family and origin
  • Determining the exact meaning of specific words as used in past civilizations
  • Publishing articles in philology journals
  • Instructing linguistics and philology students in colleges and universities.

Work Environment

Philologists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They spend their time in offices, libraries and museums where they study literary texts. Philologists who work at universities instruct students in a classroom environment.


The following table highlights some of the top-paying states for philologists:



Annual Wage

District of Columbia









New York



Source: Salary Expert

Entry Requirements

To become a philologist, you must complete the following steps:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Some of the high recommended fields include linguistics, classics, philosophy, literature and ancient history
  • Pursue a master’s degree in philology – With this credential, you can find work as a classics teachers in high schools
  • Pursue a doctorate in philology – You can specialize in fields such as classical philology and English philology.

 Only a few US universities offer graduate programs in philology. Some of these institutions include:

Important Qualities

  • Excellent research skills – Includes the ability to choose the right methodology for a given research project
  • The ability to pay close attention to details
  • An interest in ancient history
  • Good report writing skills
  • Strong analytical skills to study and interpret literary texts
  • The practical and technical skills to effectively use modern technologies
  • Good interpersonal and speaking skills.

Career Advancement

Even though a doctoral degree is enough to take you places, there are a few other steps you can take to improve your competence and career progression prospects. For example, the universities that offer academic programs in philology offer fellowships, which you join to access additional studies.

The American Philological Association, which is presently known as the Society for Classical Studies, also offers membership opportunities to qualified philologists. By joining this society, you will be able to easily publishing your research findings in the American Journal of Philology, as well as attend industry meetings at reduced rates.

Job Opportunities

As a qualified philologist, you can find employment in:

  • Art and cultural centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Museums
  • Philological foundations
  • Educational, literary and scientific publishing firms
  • Research centers

As you gain more experience and improve your professionalism, you can progress to become a senior philologist. If you choose to teach in a university, you could advance to become the head of the philological department.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not compile occupational data for philologists, you should not look forward to plenty of employment opportunities. From the fact that only a few universities offer philology programs, we can tell philology is a small profession.

Therefore, to find employment as a philologist you must be prepared to earn a PhD. Goodluck!