What can I do with a degree in Linguistics?

Professor Jen Hay, of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behavior

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It addresses questions relating to the structure of language, how and why languages differ and change, how humans acquire and process language, the relationship between language and society, and systems of speech sounds.

It leads to a wide range of jobs and careers including teaching, translation/interpreting, marketing, publishing, journalism, law, medicine, information technology, speech and language therapy, and international relations. In fact, studying linguistics will help prepare you for any profession that requires skills in analytical thinking, problem solving, argumentation, critical thinking, data collection and analysis, and written and oral expression.

Through their Linguistics degree, graduates develop a valuable set of skills that are transferable to a range of careers. These skills include:

  • Thinking critically, creatively and challenging ideas
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills and the ability to use language creatively
  • Strong social and political awareness
  • Cooperation, teamwork and leadership
  • Attention to detail
  • Working to deadlines
  • Project management and research skills
  • Good planning and careful execution of work.

Opportunities to apply your learning outside the classroom are available in this major. Undertaking an internship, for example, can deepen your skillset, awareness of others, working knowledge, and employability.

Linguistic training is helpful for a wide range of careers such as:

  • Public and private sector roles requiring advanced communication skills eg, marketing, sales, public relations, advertising, publishing, law, journalism, travel, tourism, and international relations
  • Education — graduates are found at all levels in teaching and research institutions
  • Roles requiring advanced understanding of language eg, in speech and language therapy, in software and computational companies, and in interpreting and translation services
  • Freelance or self-employment, contracting out services such as tutoring, organisational training or editing.

Recent UC graduates have found work in research institutes, academia, government, speech and language departments, secondary schools, online learning companies, teaching English abroad programmes, speech analysis technology innovators, and statistical organisations.

Graduates with this degree are employed in a range of jobs — see some examples below.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.

Linguist, linguistic scientist

  • Studies multiple and varied languages, including origins and changes
  • Helps preserve unique or endangered languages
  • Interfaces with other fields which require linguistic skills such as IT (speech technology) or law (forensic linguistics)

Language officer / consultant

  • Describes the sound system, words, sentence structure, and vocabulary of language spoken for organisational purposes
  • Leads engagement and information sessions
  • Translates and interprets

Policy analyst / advisor

  • Researches and analyses information to assist in policy planning and development
  • Reviews and interprets existing policies

Publisher, editor

  • Plans and commissions content for publication
  • Evaluates, edits and organises material for multiple formats — online and in print
  • Liaises with other staff to oversee production

Journalist, media / public relations advisor

  • Researches and produces stories for different types of media and purposes
  • Interviews and consults people
  • Selects accurate and relevant content for the reader, listener or viewer

Research analyst / advisor / assistant

  • Organises and conducts research surveys
  • Tests theories and interprets the results
  • Writes reports and makes recommendations

Statistical analyst

  • Collects, analyses and interprets data
  • Identifies and forecasts trends and needs
  • Presents information to assist decision-making

Secondary school teacher

  • Plans and delivers instructional lessons
  • Evaluates performance and provides feedback
  • Sets and marks assignments and tests

Teacher of English for speakers of other languages

  • Assesses a student's reading, writing, speaking and listening skills and needs
  • Designs and prepares learning materials
  • Presents lessons, including on local knowledge and skills for coping in a new place

Interpreter, translator

  • Converts what people say or write from one language to another
  • Keeps abreast of up-to-date meaning of words
  • Researches specialist topics, travels with groups and presents to different audiences

Tertiary lecturer

  • Prepares and gives lectures, workshops and tutorials
  • Sets and marks assignments and exams
  • Conducts research, writes reports and publishes articles

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea, product or service
  • Gets involved in a start-up
  • Offers services as a freelancer/consultant

Get started with Entrepreneurship here.

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies or organisations relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network with others in a community.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep up-to-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Linguistics subject page