New Zealand Sign Language and 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 courses from any other area of study, including education, health promotion or Māori development.

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This is part of the Bachelor of Arts.

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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 courses related to intercultural competence.

Apart from the courses below you also need to complete courses from your second major, your chosen minor(s) or electives.

Core courses

All Bachelor of Arts students need to complete core courses that help you develop transferable skills and support your work in all other courses in the degree.

Workplace experience is an important part of your degree, and the Work Integrated Learning course is the final part of your degree. This is a supervised work placement related to your major(s), for an organisation of your choice. It's a great way to get industry experience while still being able to get feedback from AUT lecturers, and for many of our students this workplace experience also leads to a job offer.

Recent placements included:

  • Auckland Deaf Society
  • Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand
  • SignDNA

You could also take the Foundations in Research course if you’re considering continuing into postgraduate study.

Want more info about work integrated learning at AUT?

Read more about workplace experience in AUT programmes, how it works and why it’s so beneficial when you start your career.

Workplace experience in AUT programmes

New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf studies courses

If you're majoring in New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf studies, this is the main subject area you specialise in. It makes up one third of your degree and consists of eight Deaf studies-related courses you study throughout your degree.

If you don't have any experience with New Zealand Sign Language, you may need to take additional foundation-level language courses. Contact the programme leader on for more information.

Year 1 courses

Complete two of:

Year 2 courses

Complete three of:

Year 3 courses

Complete three of:

Build your degree

Use our online tool to build your own degree and see what your three years of study could look like.

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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
  • Tertiary Education Institutions New Zealand-wide
  • Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand

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

NZ Sign Language & Interpreting Careers

Other majors in the Bachelor of Arts

*This major focuses on New Zealand Sign Language and developing the skills to become a Sign Language interpreter. It doesn’t include the option to include courses from different subjects.

Key features
  • Many opportunities to practise your skills with the Deaf community
  • Only major of its kind
  • Workplace experience in your final semester
  • Option to include subjects from across AUT in your degree
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.