Linguistics and applied language studies

Skills in the description of language and language use can lead to diverse careers from language teacher to software designer.

Linguistics is s study of both humanities and sciences and looks at the social, political and cultural aspects of language as well elements such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics and syntax. Linguistics students also learn about the psychological processes that underpin learning and using a second language.

New Zealand Sign Language Studies is offered as a minor and students learn to express themselves and communicate in New Zealand’s third official language. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) students, learn to describe language and language use in a way that helps second language learners to understand it.

Both Linguistics and Applied Language students gain an analytical understanding of verbal and nonverbal communication, learn keen observation and listening skills and how to maintain objectivity. They also gain skills in research, project management and statistical analysis, particularly at postgraduate level.

Roles and career pathways


An understanding of language and language use in organisational, social and political contexts can lead to marketing and communications or policy roles in government or non-governmental organisations. Completing other relevant subjects in humanities or commerce subjects may help increase employment opportunities in this area.


Understanding individual and social aspects of language learning and how speech develops are increasingly useful to technology companies involved in machine learning, cybersecurity and user experience design (UX). The attention to detail that linguistic students develop can also be helpful developing and testing software and business processes. Studying Linguistics with another subject such as Computer Science, Mathematics or Information Systems or gaining a postgraduate qualification in software development can make graduates highly desirable to technology employers.

Education and training

Linguistics and Applied Language graduates may work in roles related to education or training, such as content or resource development and learning design. Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) graduates at undergraduate level can find work with non governmental organisations in areas such as refugee resettlement. TESOL combines well with other languages, International Business, International relations, Anthropology, Music, Education or Education Psychology and can also provide a useful foundation to working overseas. Completing a postgraduate TESOL qualification can lead to teaching roles or international student advice and pastoral roles in New Zealand and overseas in schools and with tertiary education providers.


A combination of Linguistics and a modern language, including New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), can lead to employment as interpreters and translators, sign interpreters, web accessibility advisers and designers. Linguistics and Language Studies graduates can move on to speech and language therapy roles with government agencies and private practice after a (limited entry) Master’s level qualification in speech and language therapy.

Where Linguistics and Applied Language graduates work

Graduates may work in teaching, government, ICT or not-for-profit organisations and for communications sectors where their analytical, qualitative and quantitative research, writing and communication skills can be applied. TESOL graduates may work for organisations that teach English to or work with speakers of other languages either in New Zealand or overseas.

Recent Linguistics and Language Studies graduates have worked for employers such as:

Build relevant skills and experience

Part-time work and volunteering during study all help to increase your job prospects when you graduate. The WFHSS Internship course run by the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences helps develop practical work place experience. Programmes such as Wellington Plus and Wellington International Leadership Programme (WILP) offer opportunities to gain diverse volunteer and leadership experience. The Language Buddy programme though the  Language Learning Centre (LLC) at the plus a number of student clubs for each language provide an opportunity for you to gain insights into other students’ language learning experiences.

Make career connections

Making connections with individuals and groups during your degree can help you learn more about career and networking opportunities. TESOLANZ (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand) is a non-profit incorporated society which provides professional support, networking and a voice for people involved with ESOL at all levels, from preschool through to tertiary. They offer networking opportunities, professional development, and organise and facilitate a variety of conferences and events. The Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Wellington Young Professionals offers various events and opportunities for networking. The Alumni as Mentors programme for final-year students also helps enhance your connections and employability while studying.