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One of the few of its kind in the U.S., Ball State’s PhD in applied linguistics prepares students to teach on the college level, conduct research into modern and ancient languages, consult in multicultural workplaces, and serve in medical, legal, and educational environments. Many students decide to focus their doctorates by adding a cognate or certificate.

What You Will Learn

Learning outcomes include:

  • a deep understanding of languages as an organized, interrelated system with multiple subsystems
  • the ability to apply linguistic methodologies to analyze language (English and other languages)
  • the skills to recognize and interpret differences across speech communities in language use
  • awareness of cross-cultural difference and respect for diversity
  • the ability to conduct a scientific research project and produce a quality research paper

Ultimately, you will become an expert in your research topic and start taking leadership.

Our Alumni

Learn more about what our graduate-program alumni do.

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What Can You Do with an English Major?

We’re asked this question all the time. Our answer: A lot. You will learn skills that transfer across hundreds of possible careers and industries—some of which may not even exist yet. Our graduates go on to work in marketing, publishing, non-profit fundraising, speechwriting, as well as in countless other fulfilling occupations.

Explore Careers

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Program Benefits

You will learn directly from and collaborate with your faculty members, who offer diverse areas of expertise in linguistics and are actively conducting research in their fields, often with support from their students.

Faculty has included work on:

  • second language (L2) vocabulary learning
  • prompt effects on language performance
  • discourse markers in L2 writing
  • collaboration in writing classrooms
  • language of politics
  • Totonac-Tepehua
  • the effect of syllable structure on language learning
  • the development of complexity, accuracy, and fluency in L2 English

Read our faculty bios:

Your research might even attract national attention. One of our students received a Fulbright-Hays grant to study Sheng, an urban vernacular common in Nairobi.

You’ll produce published work and gain experience in the professional field through projects with your faculty, working as an assistant, presenting your work at conferences, and publishing journal articles.

Many of our graduate assistants work in Ball State’s Intensive English Institute, which provides English instruction to nonnative speakers. Through the work in the institute, the GAs receive ample practical training and can put into practice what they learn through their courses.

Program Requirements

This PhD program includes core courses in applied linguistics, directed electives, and a doctoral dissertation.

Credits Required

Total Graduate Study: 90 (58 for the PhD program)

  • core courses: 12
  • directed electives: 18
  • electives: 15
  • research requirement: 3
  • dissertation: 10

Master’s Degree Credits

Up to 32 credits from the master’s degree may apply to the total of 90 credits for the doctoral degree.


Students who have not taken both an introductory linguistics course and a research course (or done equivalent work) must take ENG 520 or an additional three credits of ENG 601 Research in English Studies; however, these courses are not included in the remaining 48 credits of core coursework required for graduation.


A few of the classes you may take include:

  • Research in English Studies
  • Morphology and Syntax
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Meaning and Structure in English 

We also offer open-topic courses in linguistics and applied linguistics. Some of the courses offered are:

  • Linguistics and Digital Communication
  • Bilingualism and Language Contact
  • Language and Gender
  • Psycholinguistics

For a complete list of all the courses you will take and their descriptions, please see our Graduate Catalog.

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Comprehensive Examinations

At the completion of coursework, students take a written comprehensive exam. An oral exam follows the written exam.


Candidates must complete a dissertation on an original topic under the guidance of a committee of faculty. The dissertation requires registration for 10 credits in DISS 799. On completion of the dissertation, students stand a final oral examination between one and two hours in length.

Foreign Language

Knowledge of two languages other than English is required—typically, four semesters of coursework or being a native speaker.

Paying for Your Education

Department Graduate Scholarships and Assistantships

A graduate assistantship is an excellent opportunity to gain meaningful professional experience while helping cover the costs of your degree. Learn more.

Application Process and Requirements

The first step is to apply as a graduate student to Ball State University. You will also need to meet admission criteria and apply to the program itself.

More Information

If you would like to learn more about this program or about Ball State Graduate School in general, please complete our online form to request more information. Or if you’d like to speak with someone in our department directly by phone or email, please contact us.