New Zealand Sign Language & Deaf Studies Major - Bachelor of Arts

New Zealand Sign Language is an official language of New Zealand, and an understanding of sign language and Deaf culture is useful for many careers.

The New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Studies major covers communication strategies in NZSL and the cultural knowledge to work with Deaf clients and colleagues. Sign language skills are in demand in all areas of New Zealand society, including education, health, legal and social service settings, as well as any customer-facing area of work.

Tailor this sign language course to your interests, and combine it with papers or a major from any other area of study, including, but not limited to, education, health promotion, Māori development or event management.


This is part of the Bachelor of Arts.

The first year focuses on the development of receptive and expressive fluency in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), and the study of the Deaf community and culture. In the second and third years, you can either continue with further language acquisition, learn about the interpreting profession, or choose papers related to intercultural competence.

All students in the Bachelor of Arts complete core papers that cover effective communication, critical thinking and other transferable skills you'll need for your future career. For a list of core papers refer to the Bachelor of Arts overview.

Bachelor of Arts

Year 1 (compulsory) papers

NZSL501 New Zealand Sign Language I
NZSL502 Deaf Community and Culture I
NZSL601 New Zealand Sign Language II
NZSL602 Deaf Community and Culture II

Year 2 and 3 papers

CLSY502 Intercultural Competence
CLSY601 Intercultural Competence in a Global World
ENGL500 Contemporary Language Studies
NZSL603 New Zealand Sign Language III
NZSL700 BA Special Topic [Deaf Studies]
NZSL701 New Zealand Sign Language IV
NZSL702 Current Issues in the Deaf World
NZSL703 Comparative Analysis of English and NZSL
SOSC780 Multicultural Communities
TRIN603 Theory and Practice of Interpreting

Additional papers

The following papers can be chosen as electives.

NZSL511 New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Culture 1A
NZSL512 New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Culture 1B

Workplace experience

Workplace experience (the Work Integrated Learning paper) is the final part of your degree and takes a full semester. This is a supervised work placement related to your major(s), for an organisation of your choice.

Recent placements included:

  • Auckland Deaf Society
  • Tu Kokiri, Kelston Deaf Education Centre
  • SignDNA

Professionals working with Deaf clients, colleagues, students, as well as any customer-facing profession. For example:

  • Teachers
  • Health professionals
  • Health educators
  • Event managers
  • Hospitality professionals
  • Disability service coordinators
  • Social workers
  • Lawyers
  • Any area of work where you might meet Deaf people

Industry organisations that recognise this programme

  • Sign Language Interpreting Association of New Zealand
  • New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters
  • Interpreter booking agencies New Zealand-wide
  • Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Kelston Deaf Education Centre
  • Van Asch Deaf Education Centre
  • Tertiary Education Institutions New Zealand-wide

Find out more about industry trends, job descriptions and what employers may be looking for.

NZ Sign Language & Interpreting Careers

Key features
  • Many opportunities to practise your skills with the Deaf community
  • Only major of its kind
  • Include papers from different disciplines
  • Workplace experience in your final semester
See yourself as
  • Passionate about working with the Deaf community
  • Interested in people
  • A communicator
  • Enjoying challenges

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.