petertohen wrote:I was just wondering if there were any professional linguists on here
I'm a linguist (a few of us are). I'm not sure what you mean by "professional linguist."
how do I become one? What kind of education or background is needed, etc.
You go to a university that has a linguistics program and major in linguistics. You can start doing this at the undergraduate (Bachelor of Arts/BA) level, or you might be able to start at the graduate (Master of Arts/MA or doctorate/PhD) level, but you'd probably need to apply (and be accepted) to get into graduate school, which can be difficult. Personally, I started out as an undergraduate taking linguistics courses and eventually managed to graduate (as a grad student) with an MA.
If you're asking what sorts of jobs linguists can get after getting an MA or PhD just because they're linguists, then I would say the answer is "almost nothing." If you have a PhD in linguistics, you could try to become a professor, but this is really difficult (in fact, I've heard it's getting increasingly hard lately and the most qualified candidates are not the ones actually being hired), and most linguists do not manage to get jobs as professors even though that's exactly what they're trained for in grad school. Otherwise, you pretty much have to rely on whatever other skills you have or (try to) develop a new skill so you can get a job that pays well enough for you.