We offer a terminal MA degree and a PhD degree in Linguistics.

Please address email inquiries concerning admission to the graduate program to either the director of the graduate program, Suzanne Wagner, or to the program’s graduate secretary.


Admission to the M.A. program. Applicants should have completed at least an introductory course in linguistics. Students with an otherwise appropriate background may be admitted without this, but they must then enroll in LIN 401 Introduction to Linguistics in their first semester..

Admission to the Ph.D. program. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree (or a foreign equivalent) in linguistics or a related field. 

Admission and B.A.-M.A. dual enrollment. If you are currently a linguistics major at MSU, you may be eligible for dual enrollment in the undergraduate and M.A. programs. This makes it possible for certain courses to be counted toward satisfying the minimum credit requirements for both degrees. For further information, talk to your academic adviser, and to the director of the Linguistics graduate program. More information is available here.


  1. Application form.  Complete the online application form.
    • Personal statement. This should include a summary of your academic and personal background, with a special emphasis on aspects of it that might be relevant to graduate work in linguistics. Of course, any previous study of the subject should be mentioned. You should also indicate your reasons for wanting to pursue a graduate degree in linguistics.
    • Academic statement. This is a statement of purpose that characterizes your intellectual goals. It should indicate your specific area(s) of interest in linguistics and what you hope to focus on in the program. It’s entirely appropriate to speculate about potential topics of future research papers or even the topic of your thesis or dissertation. (If admitted, you will not be required to do precisely what you describe. Your plans may change.)
    • For applicants to the M.A. program, each of these statements should be 500–700 words; for applicants to the Ph.D. program, 700–1,000 words.
  2. Recommendation letters.  Ask three people who are well-acquainted with your qualifications for graduate study in linguistics to submit letters via the online application system.  If necessary, they can sending letters by post or by email to the graduate secretary.
  3. Transcripts.  Arrange for each college or university you have attended to send two official transcripts to the department.
  4. Graduate Record Exam. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test and have scores sent to the MSU Office of Admissions. MSU instution code: 1465. Our department code: 2903. There is no fixed minimum score you must attain, but scores below the 50th percentile will significantly reduce the likelihood of your admission.
  5. English-language test.  If you are an international student and not a native speaker of English, take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and have your score sent to the department. Minimum TOEFL = 100; minimum IELTS = 7.5.  The English-language testing requirement is waived if you have a bachelor’s degree from a four-year US university or if you have a master’s degree from one of the approximately 60 members of the Association of American Universities. It may be waived in certain other circumstances, including if you have received an M.A. from an English-speaking institution outside of the AAU. Nevertheless, even if you have previously done work in an English-language environment, it may increase your probability of admission if you can clearly demonstrate your English skills with a good test score because it would put to rest any doubts the admissions committee might otherwise have about your English ability.
  6. Writing sample.  If you are applying to the Ph.D. program, submit a sample of written work such as an M.A. thesis or research paper. This must be written in English. You may provide more than one paper if you wish. (Applicants to the M.A. program may submit a writing sample as well, but are not required to do so.)


The official deadline for admission for fall semester is December 15. To be eligible for funding, submit your application before November 30.

It is technically possible to start in the spring semester, but we strongly discourage this. If you think you might need to pursue this possibility, email the graduate program director to discuss it BEFORE submitting an application. The deadline for spring admission is September 15.


For PhD students, a 5-year funding package is available, contingent upon sustained academic performance and progression toward program milestones. The package covers tuition for 9 credits (typically 3 courses) per semester in fall and spring, and health insurance all year, plus a stipend. In exchange, PhD students work for 20 hours per week in fall and spring as Graduate Assistants in teaching, research or administrative roles. More information can be found here.

For MA students, we do not routinely make funding offers, but funding is occasionally available.

Additional sources of funding available through the MSU Graduate School and external sources are described here.