MS in Computational Linguistics

Enter the red-hot human language technologies industry with an advanced degree in an interdisciplinary field that combines studies in studies in computer science, statistics, language, cognitive science, psycholinguistics and artificial intelligence.

The work of computational linguists is incorporated into many software applications, including speech recognition systems, text-to-speech synthesizers, translation systems, question answering systems, artificial personal assistants, forensic language analysis, automated voice response systems and language tutoring applications, to name just a few.

The Department of Linguistics and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering will help you enrich your Computational Linguistics education with high-impact experiential learning activities to further develop the technical and soft skills that employers demand. 

Infographic that says, 10 Skills Employers Want 1. Research 2. A Cross-Disciplinary Approach 3. Programming 4. Professional Conduct 5. Communication 6. Project Management 7. Leadership 8. Critical Thinking 9. Teamwork 10. Diversity and Cultural Appreciation.

Be Career Ready

  • Understand traditional linguistics disciplines such as syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonetics, and phonology, and receive substantial training in other areas, such as language typology, psycholinguistics, computational linguistic, and historical and contact linguistics
  • Advance your knowledge of machine learning, algorithm design and software engineering in modern programming languages to solve complex problems
  • Create tools for important practical tasks such as machine translation, speech recognition, speech synthesis, information extraction from text, grammar checking, text mining and more
  • Apply your programming knowledge to create computational models of various kinds of linguistic phenomena, such as language acquisition, evolution, language and human language comprehension

Employers often cite the skills profile of applicants as the most important factor in their recruitment and job offer decisions.

Explore a few examples of how we help you develop skills that employers want:

1. Research

Work independently, with peers or with faculty members on major research projects, helping them identify issues and produce groundbreaking and publication-worthy scholarship and applied research.  

For example, the work of the Center of Excellence for Document Analysis and Recognition (CEDAR) spans the areas of pattern recognitionmachine learningdata mininginformation retrieval and computational linguistics. CEDAR was made possible with funding from several federal agencies, principally the United States Postal Service. Over a period of 25 years, faculty, students and research scientists at CEDAR have published more than a thousand scientific papers. CEDAR has supported more than 500 students in various disciplines, resulting in the award of several hundred master's degrees and more than 45 doctoral degrees.

Students can participate in the Semantic Typology Lab, which serves as an incubator for research ideas for faculty members and students. Current topics of discussion include projects on eye-tracking studies of motion events, meronymy in Yucatec and Zapotec, the role of linguistic vs. environmental and cultural factors in spatial cognition, and continued research on spatial language and cognition beyond Mesoamerica.

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering offers numerous opportunities for cross-disciplinary and leading-edge research related to Computational Linguistics. For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning is a research focus for a large group of University at Buffalo faculty members. Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers now predict that computers will be able to perform tasks that were once considered the prerogative of human beings include tasks such as driving trucks, translating languages, writing high school essays, creating art, analyzing forensic evidence and even working as a surgeon. Current methods focus on variants of deep learning—such as convolutional nets, recurrent nets, autoencoders and adversarial networks—as well as on the methods of probabilistic graphical models.

For students pursuing Masters degrees, the Mark Diamond Research Fund offers grants up to $1,500 for research expenses related to their thesis or dissertation . 

2. A Cross-Disciplinary Approach

Engage with students and faculty members from diverse educational and professional backgrounds in a program that incorporates multiple disciplines.

Explore interdisciplinary research within the Center for Cognitive Science and receive extensive training through collaborations with the Department of Psychology or Computer Science and Engineering programs.

One of the first centers of Cognitive Science in the United States, the University at Buffalo is an active community of researchers and scholars who cross disciplinary boundaries to explore relationships between cognitive psychology, linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience, and computer science.

Learn more about some of the interdisciplinary research groups related to the Center of Cognitive Science including:

  • Ontology Research Group, part of the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences
  • Psycholinguistics Laboratory, focusing on the mental representations and processing mechanisms involved in the comprehension of sentences and discourses
  • Semantic Typology Lab, the cross-linguistic study of linguistic categorization
  • Computational Psycholinguistics Lab, read and discuss current computational and psycholinguistic papers,
    as well as ongoing projects being done by various students in the lab
  • SNePS (Semantic Network Processing System) Research Group (SNeRG) consists of faculty members of the Department of Computer Science and computer science graduate students. Its long-term goal is the design and construction of a natural-language-using computerized cognitive agent, and the research in artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, and cognitive science necessary for that endeavor

3. Programming

Advance your programming skills, including algorithm design and implementation, in modern, high-level, programming languages. Languages of interest include C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, Lisp, ML, Smalltalk, and Prolog, among others.

In-class programming projects are designed to deepen understanding of languages and enhance applied skills. For example, in required Computer Science courses CSE 503 and CSE 504, students design and implement robust abstract data types (ADTs) using a modern, object-oriented, programming language. Essential topics integrated in this framework include the use of recursion; pointers; dynamic memory management; linked structures including linked lists, binary trees, stacks, queues, and other advanced data structures; and algorithms, including advanced searching and sorting algorithms.

Expand your hands-on programming experience through a myriad of research opportunities, professional and student organizations, competitions and events. For example, showcase your abilities at the annual UB Hacking event, where students from all disciplines are invited to create cool and innovative projects within 24 hours and compete for top honors. The student-run event provides a team of mentors, comprised of industry professionals and CS/CEN upperclassmen, who offer 24/7 support for any team that needs help with planning how to start an idea or solve a nasty bug. (Bonus: They also provide food and beverages throughout the entire event—thank the industry sponsors who are on-site to meet you!)

4. Professional Conduct

Gain insight into the demands and expectations of employers through credit-bearing and, in some cases, paid internships. Students displaying knowledge, professionalism and a solid work ethic are oftentimes offered full-time positions.

Interact with academic and industry professional through department sponsored events such as the weekly Colloquia Series. Recent guest speakers include:

  • Gualtiero Piccinini, Professor, Philosophy Department University of Missouri – St. Louis, “Computation and the function of consciousness”
  • Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University of Rochester, "Can a computer improve your social skills?"
  • Jesse Snedeker, Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, “Fast, smart and out of control: The development of language comprehension in children”

5. Communication

Enhance your ability to author and present effective critical communication pieces through required class projects, research papers, poster presentations and articles. Interact with peers, researchers and industry experts at a myriad of professional and social events designed to strengthen your communication skills and expand your network. 

Practice professional presentation skills in seminar classes before you take the stage at regional and national conferences. For example, Soo Hyun Ryu, a student in the MS in Computational Linguistics program, presented her paper entitled, "On the interaction between dependency frequency and thematic fit in sentence processing" at the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Computation in Linguistics in New York City.

Present and discuss original ongoing student research ideas in these Department of Linguistics reading groups and research labs:

The Help-a-Linguist-Fund (HaLF) is a Graduate Linguistics Association initiative that provides funding for graduate students to alleviate the costs associated with presenting at conferences and conducting fieldwork or research. Recent recipients include:

  • Hanno Beck, attending Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference 24
  • Kiyono Fujinaga, attending The 44th Conference of Berkeley Linguistics Society
  • Jose Jodar-Sanchez, attending XIII Congreso Internacional de Lingüistica
  • Geral Anastasia, attending NASSLLI 2018
  • Luis Ulloa, conducting fieldwork in Loreto, Peru

Apply for other means of financial support to attend conferences such as the Fund for the Future of Applied Linguistics (FFAL), an endowment fund that provides graduate student awards to attend American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) annual conferences. 

Develop skills through participation in student-run organizations such as Emerge, a STEM-themed biannual publication powered by a multidisciplinary team of inquirers who strive to artistically produce technical content

6. Project Management

Acquire the knowledge and skills to initiate, plan, execute, control and complete the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. Negotiate reasonable and achievable deadlines and milestones across teams and stakeholders. In short, gain hands-on experience delivering projects that meet the organization’s goals on time and on budget.

Choose to complete a research or academic project to showcase your ability to design, manage, operate, and report on a project, as both technical and project management skills are typically required for professional employment.

7. Leadership

Rise to the challenge by gaining experience and leadership skills in some of the hundreds of University at Buffalo extracurricular and governance organizations, civic groups and volunteer activities. Just a few other on-campus organizations that may be of interest to you include:

  • Graduate Linguistics Association: Coordinates academic and social events, and offers opportunities to develop leadership skills.
  • Association for Computational Linguistics: Network in an international scientific and professional society for people working on computational problems involving human language, a field often referred to as either computational linguistics or natural language processing (NLP)
  • Computational Sciences Club: Brings together UB students from various disciplines to share their research perspectives, organize seminars and workshops, promote collaboration, and nurture awareness in the job market.
  • Association for Computing Machinery: Fosters a student community around computer science and software engineering at the University at Buffalo through tech talks, hackathons and social events.

Prove your abilities and make powerful industry connections through student engagement opportunities national and international professional organizations such as:

8. Critical Thinking

Showcase your ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Design, manage and report on topics, highlighting your competence across several areas. For example:

Be part of the solution by converting challenges into opportunities through Inve[n|s]t, a UB faculty, staff and student club for innovators looking to work on exciting, real-world problems. Here you can help create cross functional teams to work on applying computing technologies to domains like finance, medicine, and community service. Meet partners, brainstorm and connect with peers and mentors who can help turn interesting ideas into concrete solutions. 

9. Teamwork

Learn the intricacies of teamwork through collaboration with classmates on applied group projects, research papers, academic competitions, in student organizations and volunteer opportunities in the community.

Examples of team-based projects include:

10. Diversity and Cultural Appreciation

Expand your world view and prepare to work in the interconnected world market and global systems.

In recent years, sixty students have graduated with Linguistics Master's and Doctoral degrees. About half of these students are from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe, contributing to UB’s diverse student body, wide range of perspectives and lively cross-cultural understanding.

Take advantage of opportunities to participate in study abroad or other international experiences to further your understanding of computational linguistics in different contexts. For example, graduate student Dianna Radpour took a leave of absence from the program for one semester to participate in a research internship at the RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project, Language Information Access Technology Team, in Tokyo, Japan.

In addition, national and international scholars come to campus to present guest lectures exposing students to a multitude of ideas and perspectives. Recent guest scholars include:

  • Nicholas Rolle, Post-Doctorate Research Associate in Linguistics, Princeton University, “Trigger-target asymmetries in concatenative vs. replacive tone”
  • C. Mohan, IBM Fellow, IBM Almaden Research Center, “Blockchains and Databases: A New Era in Distributed Computing”
  • Laura Haas, Dean, College of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Leveraging Data and People to Accelerate Data Science”

How much can you earn?

Bar graph, Salary: $172,00 high, $100,334 average annual pay, $29,000 low.

The average annual pay for a Computational Linguist across the U.S. is $100,334 a year. Computational Linguists' annual salaries range from $29,000 to $172,000 nationally. To estimate the most accurate annual salary range for Computational Linguist jobs, ZipRecruiter continuously scans its database of millions of active jobs published locally throughout America.

Source: ZipRecruiter, August 2018. 

What career is in your future?

* Data Scientist
* Artificial Intelligence Scientist
* Text Analytics Software Tester
* Cognitive Software Developer
* Computational Linguist
* Language Engineer
* Cryptologic Linguist
* Linguistics Developer
* Research Scientist
* Data Analyst
* Natural Language Processing Software Engineer

Computational Linguists Are in Demand

A line graph titled, Number of Job Postings Involving Computational Linguistics, 2007 - 2010, that shows a dramatic increase in 2014 and on.


The demand for skilled Computational Linguists is skyrocketing, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in the number of job postings involving computational linguistics.

Source: Rui P Chaves, PhD; All job postings in LinguistList emails that involve computational linguistics, 2007-2017.