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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study a linguistics degree?

Linguistics is a diverse, multidisciplinary, and dynamic field. Studying for a linguistics degree can lead to exciting specialisations and diverse career options. Our guide will help you navigate through what can be a misunderstood subject area.

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Are you interested in languages and how they are structured and evolve? If so, a linguistics degree would allow you to develop and explore this. When studying linguistics, you’ll approach language from a scientific perspective, from language learning to how language influences the interaction between people. The field of linguistics is ever-evolving and includes numerous areas of specialisation. We explore what it takes to study for a linguistics degree, what you'll learn and what sort of career you could have with a linguistics qualification. 


What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of how language works and functions. You’ve probably heard people suggesting it’s about learning a language, but this isn’t accurate. Linguistics explores why we have the languages that we do and how they have developed. A linguistics degree helps you to study and understand the form, structure, and context of language.


A linguistics degree aims to examine the relationship between sound and meaning, as produced through language. This includes the effect it has on how society is organised, operates, and develops. With a linguistics degree, you'll be able to evaluate the different ways in which language is expressed, from literature to music.


Discover some of the universities where you could study for a degree in linguistics.



What do you learn in a linguistics degree?

Linguistics degrees are offered as both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science qualifications. Much will depend on your area of interest, for example, if you enjoy a more technical or analytical approach. While the curricula between universities may differ, there are some fundamental areas that you will likely study during your degree. At the undergraduate level first year, you’ll explore areas including:


  • Semantics
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Grammar
  • Pragmatics
  • Language development
  • Theoretical linguistics
  • Syntax


As you progress through your degree into the second and third year you will start moving into more focused and detailed areas of linguistics such as:


  • Phonetic science
  • Semantic theory
  • Neurolinguistics
  • Morphology
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Linguistics of sign language
  • Multilingualism
  • Psycholinguistics


Throughout your degree, you will have both elective and compulsory modules to complete. Programmes in linguistics mostly use written assignments, essays, project work and examinations for evaluation.


Studying linguistics at the postgraduate level means you have the choice of specialising. You can pursue a postgraduate qualification as an MA, MSc or MRes degree in some cases. Areas of focus can include:


  • Phonology
  • Pragmatics
  • Syntax
  • Cognition
  • Language development
  • Speech science


Master’s degrees in the subject can be entirely research-based with a final dissertation submission but can be a mix of taught modules and research. Always check the requirements with your prospective university for the linguistics degree that you are interested in.



What skills do you need to study linguistics?

First and foremost, you need to be interested in language and its sociological, psychological, and physiological manifestations. If you have studied a humanities subject such as communication, media studies, philosophy, psychology, or languages, this is good preparation. Some of the other traits needed when taking on a linguistics degree include:


  • Critical and analytical skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Organisational ability
  • Presentation skills
  • Good writing ability
  • Multitasking
  • Research skills


It is also possible that a university may recommend having a mix of science-based subjects and humanities as the ideal foundation. If you’re unsure, always check the entry requirements or speak to someone at the university.



What are the entry requirements for a linguistics degree?

For most undergraduate degrees in linguistics, you will need to have achieved at least an AAB result at A-Level, which equates to a score of 34 on the International Baccalaureate and an SAT score of 1,320. Many universities may also require you to have studied English and mathematics as major subjects. Your IELTS score, or equivalent, that you will need is a score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 for each sub-section.


If you’re applying for a postgraduate qualification a university will ask for a bachelor’s degree in linguistics or a related subject such as psychology, English, speech science or cognitive science. You will also need to have achieved the minimum of a 2:1 degree, which is above 65 per cent. This result is approximately a GPA score of 3.3.


Remember that you can check out our article on the UK grading system to get a better idea and read more about English language test scores.



What to do after a linguistics degree?

Graduating with a linguistics degree can lead to several interesting and variable career opportunities. The degree will give you some of the skills that are high on the list of employer’s wish list. Some of these include data analytics skills, information technology competencies, research skills and critical thinking. Careers that you could find yourself pursuing include:


  • Speech therapy
  • Management
  • Public relations
  • Teaching
  • Social work
  • Counselling
  • Research
  • Human resources
  • Marketing


It’s important to note that, according to recent statistics, almost 94 per cent of graduates find work or are in further study shortly after degree completion (Graduate Prospects).


A linguistics degree is challenging but ultimately rewarding. If you want some extra help with deciding on your study path, our guide to matching your career aspirations with your degree choice can help. We also have some insight into how studying abroad can help your career.

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