What courses? Linguistics; language & linguistics; European languages; English language studies; language learning; sociolinguistics; teaching English as a foreign language.

What do you come out with? A BA, very occasionally a BSc if studied in certain combined honours programmes.

Why do it? "Linguistics is the study of language as a uniquely human ability and means of communication. You will learn about how speech sounds work, how linguistic strings are structured, how words relate to thoughts, how we acquire one or more languages, how we take turns in conversation, how we convey meanings in speech or writing, how language may reflect or reinforce identities, power relationships and ideologies, and so on. With a degree in linguistics you may pursue careers in education, the media, publishing, management and consulting, speech therapy, lexicography (dictionary-building), information technology and many other fields." - Professor Elena Semino, professor of linguistics and verbal art, University of Lancaster

What's it about? Words. In simple terms: the way they sound, the way we put them together and their meanings. Linguistics is essentially the scientific study of natural language. In degree form it is comprised of modules with cryptic names such as semantics, morphology, syntax and phonology. But you’ll also explore how language works in the human mind and society at large. With a mix of art, literature, science and philosophy chucked in. Oh and grammar too. The universities with good English literature departments are the most likely to have a linguistic arm. York has a large department with ten BA programmes and joint honours on offer. It covers the usual topics and also specialises in language variation and change and psycholinguistics. At Queen Mary’s school of language, linguistics and film, they focus on the grammatical, meaning-related and sound structures of language in general. Lancaster has a large linguistics department, covering all the linguistic bases but with a smattering of more unusual options such as discourse analysis and corporate communications.

Study options: Three years full-time, or four years if studied with a foreign language, allowing for a year abroad. Most places offer courses in combination with modern languages, literature or history. The course is usually assessed relatively equal between exams and coursework.

What will I need to do it? No specific subject is required, but many universities ask for an A-level in at least one of the following: English language, English lang & lit, and either a foreign or classical language because you’ll have a background understanding of how languages work and are structured. UCL would be pleased to see English, maths, or any science-related subjects too. At York and Essex you are only required to take a language A-level if your degree is combined with that language. As for A-level grades, they vary widely, but at Lancaster you will need AAB, AAB-BBB at Manchester, and BB (with an additional AS) at Essex.

What are my job prospects? Because language is relevant to nearly every aspect of our lives, the application of linguistic skills can be very broad. Many graduates will enter teaching – especially English as a first or foreign language – or speech therapy, the civil service, advertising and the media. Immediate prospects aren’t brilliant, however – according to The Times’ Good University Guide 2012, ten per cent of graduates are unemployed six months after leaving university. Despite this, around 30 per cent do land themselves graduate jobs straight away, earning an average salary of just over £18,000.

Where’s best to do it? Lancaster came top in the Complete University Guide 2012, followed by Oxford, Edinburgh and UCL. Students at Cambridge were most satisfied with their course, and Oxford, York St John and York all fared well in this area too.

Related degrees: English; classics; French; Spanish; Italian; German.

Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living