Guide: what jobs with a languages degree can I do?
Updated 31 July 2023
Language skills are useful in a variety of international jobs which directly involve speaking and writing in another language. The skills you develop in a language degree can apply to a wide range of careers. Graduate-entry jobs look favourably upon candidates with language degrees. In this article, we outline some of the most popular career choices for graduates with a language degree.
Considering your options for jobs with a languages degree
When you're looking for work after finishing your studies, you may be wondering what jobs you can get with a languages degree. When deciding which career to pursue, one of the key decisions is whether you want to continue to use your language skills directly in your career. There are plenty of options available for language graduates who want to utilise what they've learnt in their daily duties. For graduates who enjoyed their studies but don't want to travel or live abroad, there are plenty of other career options which utilise the transferable skills gained from a language degree.
Jobs that use language skills on a daily basis
If you want to continue using and developing your language skills, there are a range of careers that rely on people with multi-linguistic abilities. Besides opportunities to travel and work in countries that use the language you studied, there are other careers that use your talents:
Schools employ language teachers, particularly in modern foreign languages. French, Spanish and German are some of the most popular languages taught in schools. There are also specialist schools and colleges where graduates in a more diverse range of languages can find employment as a teacher. Classics graduates can focus on teaching Latin, and an increasing number of students study languages like Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. Teachers can also work in adult education or even focus on primary school teaching if they want a broader background in educating young people.
There are part-time options available for teachers too. You could undertake temporary or substitute teaching contracts, which can work flexibly around other employment or travel. Working as a private tutor can also keep your language skills sharp whilst providing you with a flexible income opportunity. Qualified teachers can also enhance their pay by taking on responsibility for marking exam papers like GCSEs and A-Levels.
Tourism and tour guide work
Working in the hospitality industry is likely to give you day-to-day opportunities to use your language skills. This could be in a high-end hotel or working in a large city like London or Oxford as a multi-lingual tour guide for visitors. Some of this work may be seasonal and can combine with ongoing study or other employment. There are also opportunities in this field to be self-employed or work for large companies such as those that organise coach tours.
Museums and galleries
If you have an interest in art, history or science, employment in a museum or gallery can offer a rewarding way to utilise your language skills. Providing tours to groups from around the world can be a challenging way to hone and perfect your technical language in the relevant area. Being able to talk about artistic techniques, historical artefacts or scientific discoveries in your chosen language requires focus and further study to maintain your accuracy and fluency.
Much like being a tour guide, the role is likely to involve dealing with questions and engaging in conversation with large numbers of people in your chosen language. Regular conversations like this keep your language skills sharp and mean that you're constantly practising and developing your skills.
Translation and interpretation work
Both roles utilise almost all aspects of your language skills developed over the course of your degree. They are some of the archetypal careers for language graduates and can involve working in the UK or overseas. Many industries need translators. Advertising and marketing companies might employ translators to help reimagine their campaigns to work in another part of the world.
Financial companies hire translators to provide insightful and culturally sensitive interpretations with a focus on verbal translation. This could involve working alongside the CEO of a major company to help facilitate a business deal. It could also involve working in an international forum to provide a live translation of a speech or presentation. This role needs confident and accurate translations to be provided in a fast-paced environment. Interpreters working for a specific business leader or diplomat can expect significant opportunities to travel and live around the world.
Teaching English as a foreign language
This career is an option in the UK or abroad. With additional Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualifications, you can find lucrative teaching jobs in your chosen country. This is a popular career choice for language graduates who want to travel after completing their studies.
Related: How to list languages on your CV
Jobs that use transferable skills from a language degree
Some language graduates want to utilise the skills they've developed during their degree but don't want to use the language as a daily part of their chosen career. A wide range of generalist graduate roles simply requires a degree, possibly with a 2:1 grade as a minimum. A language degree can qualify you for any of those roles, but there are also plenty of jobs open to any graduates where language degrees can provide applicants with a significant advantage, such as:
Working for an international organisation
This could be in almost any discipline, from technology to banking to charity work. You might not use your language skills on a day-to-day basis, but there may be occasional translation and interpretation work that you can assist with. A language degree also provides a certain level of cultural understanding.
This less tangible but very valuable knowledge can be hugely helpful for companies trying to establish or grow their presence in a particular country. Understanding culture, history, religion and social dynamic in a country or region can help a company tailor the way they interact with potential clients or decision-makers in the area. The background that comes with a language degree can support these efforts. There are several global consultancy firms, which are large graduate employers, who also value these skills.
Writing and editing
Just like studying English, language degrees provide insight into grammar and the structure of literature. This can provide a useful background for a career that focuses on the written word. Jobs that focus on this include journalism, editing and proofreading. There are also roles in marketing, such as copywriting, public relations and social media content production, which benefit from strong written communication skills. A good eye for detail is important for editorial work. From working on textbooks through to reviewing content for marketing materials, the skills developed in a language degree are likely to be extremely useful in this context.
Postgraduate qualifications in law
Although some people choose to study law at university, plenty of people pursue it as a career, having gained their undergraduate degree in a subject they're passionate about. This means that many language graduates choose to pursue a career in law by undertaking a postgraduate diploma. A modern language can still prove useful as a lawyer develops their career. It may provide opportunities to work for clients around the world or specialise in international law.
The study ethic required to learn a language at degree level and the dedication needed to pursue this kind of postgraduate qualification are very similar. A significant level of self-study is necessary, similar to the kind of work language graduates have to complete during their degree.
Various options exist within civil service for graduate entry. The government remains one of the biggest employers for university graduates, whether that is through their fast-track entry scheme or directly into specific government departments. Whilst there is no particular subject requirement for graduate entry, having a language can help you secure roles in departments that focus on issues like diplomacy, foreign trade, foreign investment and international relations.
Further study following a language degree
If you're passionate about the academic study of languages, there are options available to pursue further study. This could include a master's or a doctorate degree. Often, this means studying a very specific aspect of the language and culture, such as a focus on a country's literature, art or policy. Further study can eventually lead to a career in academia, which might involve a blend of academic writing and teaching.
Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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