Rhodes>Linguistics and Applied Language Studies>Linguistics and your career

Linguistics and your career

A degree in Linguistics can help to equip you for many, many different careers.  The subject is extremely useful as a co-major with just about anything, and it will change the way you approach communication and language in whatever career you go into. Here are some examples of what Linguistics can do for your career.

Psychology/Speech Therapy

Linguistics will give you:

  • understanding of the link between language and mind, and how humans learn language
  • ability to identify language pathologies (e.g dyslexia; stuttering; aphasia)
  • knowledge about treatment for selected pathologies


Linguistics will give you:

  • insight into how people learn a first language
  • awareness of which language is appropriate for textbooks and teachers
  • familiarity with methods and techniques in multilingual classrooms
  • understanding of the problems of second language teaching
  • familiarity with current debates about language policy in South Africa
  • a training in teaching English to foreigners
  • insight into language problems (e.g. dyslexia) in the classroom

Carol Hobson-Chadd (Language teacher): Linguistics has given me a distinct advantage in the classroom, especially since English learners often have a far better grasp of grammar than many of their teachers. Linguistics has given me sensible answers to their questions.

Angela Speck (National manager, children's education charity): Stumbling into Linguistics was one of the luckiest accidents of my life, and led me to a hugely satisfactory career in Education.

Journalism & Advertising

Linguistics will give you:

  • understanding of the effects of linguistic structures on readers
  • insight into techniques of writing
  • experience in textual analysis
  • a command of the norms of verbal and written communication
  • awareness of linguistic techniques used to manipulate readers
  • training in the effects of connotations of words and visual imagery

Lorna Hiles (Freelance journalist and Media Monitor for the Nelson Mandela Foundation): I have found that Linguistics and Journalism makes a powerful combination in the job market.

Candice Caldwell (Global brand strategist): I'm currently the global brand strategist for a proprietary trading firm in Chicago. My path into brand and digital strategy is winding, but I will always point to Linguistics as my foundation. I was fascinated by discourse analysis from day one and that was my focus through my MA at Rhodes and my PhD at Cambridge. As an academic, I conducted research on everything from naming practices to social-media interactions. As a reading teacher, I helped teachers think about structuring conversations with struggling students. And as a writer for creative agencies (and ultimately a brand strategist), I draw on all the audience sensitivity I've acquired to create content and social strategies, brand campaigns, blog posts, video scripts etc. Then I use the discipline research teaches you to analyse the results and respond to them. Oh, and I've never lost my interest in naming things. I've been naming businesses and services (and doing trademark research) on the side for over 20 years and I still think it's fun.

Communications / Public Relations / Management:

Linguistics will give you:

  • a command of the norms of verbal and written communication
  • understanding of how people are influenced by language
  • a thorough grounding in the reasons underlying cross-cultural misunderstandings

Jennifer Smit (Communications officer): Since graduating from Rhodes I have joined an international company where my job is essentially communication: public relations, marketing, writing, public speaking. Linguistics has given me a better understanding of the finer nuances of language that has proved extremely useful in a job of this nature.

Computer programming / IT

Linguistics and Computer Science is a powerful combination.  Linguistics will give you:

  • familiarity with phonetics, syntax and morphology
  • ability to implement formal models of language


Linguistics will give you:

  • a clear grasp of the meanings of syntactic structures of English
  • training in ways to demystify and simplify complicated language
  • awareness of issues involved in promoting the use of plain language
  • a thorough understanding of language policy issues and language planning issues in South Africa and other countries

Literacy and academic development

Linguistics will give you:

  • training in recognised methods of teaching language
  • familiarity with concepts in literacy

Maxine Schaefer (Literacy project manager / researcher): I am currently a Project Associate on the Second Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS II) which experiments with alternate methods to addressing the current early literacy crisis in South Africa. This is a project jointly coordinated by the Department of Basic Education and Wits University, funded by USAID. My background in the Linguistics of Literacy is one of the reasons I was asked to take up this position and I have been able to advise the research team on more nuanced ways to analyse the learner assessment data. At the same time, I have also been asked to consult as the test developer (in conjunction with another researcher) on the first Early Grade Reading Study which aims at supporting Foundation Phase teachers in Setswana Home Language teaching. In my opinion, the Linguistics of Literacy has enabled me to apply linguistic theories to data analysis of projects which seek to improve literacy in the country. 

Translation & interpreting

Linguistics will give you:

  • sensitivity to semantic nuances and cultural meanings in translation
  • training in the methods and techniques of lexicography
  • understanding of the interpreting needs in lawcourts and hospitals

Sharon Fay (Public relations manager for MassDiscounters, including Dion and Game): Effective communication is critical for business efficiency, and this is where Linguistics has been of immense benefit.


Linguistics will give you:

  • mastery of standard usage in written English
  • concern for linguistic detail
  • understanding of the effects of alternative structures or lexical choices

And plenty more...

Chris La Rose (Senior consultant / manager, international public health firm): Not only did Linguistics set me up for moving into the field of public health, but I also use skills I learned in Linguistics for regular projects that I lead. My Master's in Linguistics on health literacy at Rhodes helped me get my foot in the door to do a PhD in Public Health in the U.S., and although my PhD was ultimately not on a Linguistics-related topic (HIV training needs for U.S. state and local health departments), I used the skills I learned in Linguistics to maintain a focus on health communication from my PhD through to today. Whether I'm applying cultural competency skills to developing HIV prevention training programs in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean or using discourse analysis skills and qualitative research techniques to measuring understanding of public health campaign materials focused on everything from motor vehicle accident prevention to cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use, adult immunization and opioid abuse prevention, I'm using knowledge and skills I learned at Rhodes.

Last Modified: Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:33:34 SAST