What Can I Do With a Foreign Language Degree

Government

Areas

  • Translation/Interpretation
  • Journalism/Broadcasting
  • Linguistics
  • Diplomacy
  • Civil Service
  • Foreign Service
  • Immigration/Naturalization
  • Customs
  • Intelligence/Law Enforcement

Employers

  • Federal government organizations including:
  • Overseas aid agencies
  • Intelligence and law enforcement agencies: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Department of State
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • Customs Service
  • Library of Congress
  • Armed forces
  • Voice of America

Strategies

Learn federal, state and local job application procedures. Plan to attend a specialized school that teaches foreign languages. Join armed forces as a way to get experience. The government is one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills.

Arts, Media, Entertainment

Areas

  • Advertising
  • Translation/Interpretation
  • Journalism/Broadcasting
  • Publishing/Editing
  • Public Relations

Employers

  • Museums
  • Foreign news agencies
  • Book publishers
  • TV networks
  • Radio stations
  • Film companies

Strategies

Learn about the customs and culture of the country in which your language of study is primarily spoken. Spend time studying or working abroad. Read international newspapers to keep up with developments overseas.

Industry and Commerce

Areas

  • Translation/Interpretation
  • Banking/Finance
  • Sales
  • Customer Services
  • Manufacturing
  • Engineering/Technical
  • Research
  • Operations Management
  • Consulting
  • Imports/Exports
  • Administrative Services

Employers

  • Banks/Financial institutions
  • Import/Export companies
  • Foreign firms operating in the U.S.
  • American firms operating in foreign countries
  • Manufacturers
  • Retail stores

Strategies

Supplement coursework with business classes. Gain experience through an internship or work abroad program. Find out which companies do business with the countries in which your language of study is spoken. Be prepared to start in a position in the US working for a firm with an overseas presence. Very few entry-level positions are available in international business.

Travel and Tourism

Areas

  • Translation/Interpretation
  • Airline Services
  • Management
  • Booking and Reservations
  • Travel Services/Guidance

Employers

  • Tour and excursion companies
  • Travel agencies
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Resorts
  • Restaurants
  • Airlines/Airports
  • Cruise lines
  • Railroads
  • Bus lines
  • Convention Centers

Strategies

Take courses in hotel/restaurant administration. Get a part-time job in a hotel or restaurant to gain experience. Spend some time abroad to learn the traditions of fine dining, wines, etc. Brush up on your knowledge of geography. Plan to attend a travel school. Develop office skills such as typing, organizing, and working with computers. Read international newspapers to keep up with overseas developments.

Interpretation/Translation

Areas

  • Interpretation: Simultaneous , Consecutive, Conference, Escort/Guide, Judiciary
  • Translation: Literary, Localization, Medical

Employers

  • Freelance
  • Educational services
  • Business services
  • Government agencies
  • Healthcare organizations
  • International organizations
  • Courts
  • Publishers

Strategies

Develop a "near perfect" knowledge of a second language. Seek out any opportunity to converse with native speakers to better learn the language. Gain experience through internships or volunteering. Learn a third language for great job opportunities. Develop aptitude with computers and the Internet. Most people who work in this field freelance. Freelancers who have expertise in a particular area such as law or medicine may find more opportunities. Seek certification or accreditation from an interpretation/translation organization.

Service and Education

Areas

  • Translation/Interpretation
  • Teaching
  • Educational Administration
  • Linguistics
  • Civil Service
  • Social Work
  • Mission Work
  • Library Science
  • Health Services

Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Religious and volunteer organizations
  • International organizations
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Social service agencies
  • Universities/Colleges
  • Pre-schools
  • K-12 schools
  • Professional language schools
  • English language institutes
  • Overseas dependents' schools

Strategies

Obtain state teacher licensure for K-12 teaching. Develop superior written and oral communication skills in the English language including proper sentence structure and comprehensive vocabulary. Notify local hospitals, schools, and chambers of commerce of your availability to translate or interpret for international visitors. Minor or double major in another subject that you could also teach. Consider teaching English in another country. Service and Education.
Obtain a graduate degree for college or university teaching opportunities. Get experience by becoming a teaching assistant or tutor. Be familiar with the cultural base of your language (literature, art, politics, etc.) as well as with cultural traditions. Specialize in an area of research. Plan to take both written and oral examinations to become an interpreter. Get a part-time job teaching English as a second language. Volunteer with government programs such as Peace Corps or VISTA.

General Information

  • Choose an additional academic area of study to supplement the foreign language, preferably one that requires a high degree of technical skill. Most people with foreign language ability use those skills to assist them in a different career field such as business, education, etc.
  • Related courses to study include geography, history, civilization, foreign relations, international law, and world economics.
    Decide and choose which language is necessary for your career. Decide the level of foreign language ability you will need to acquire for success in your career. Possible languages to study: Spanish, German, French, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and Portuguese.
  • Plan to attend a private language institute to learn additional languages and cultures.
  • Travel to a foreign country or study abroad in international exchange programs to learn different cultures.
  • Study and practice your foreign language skills by reading foreign newspapers, magazines and books.
  • Watch foreign movies and listen to foreign broadcasts to maintain your fluency.
  • Volunteer your language skills to churches, community organizations and programs that work with people who speak your target language.
  • Participate in summer programs, co-ops, and internships to improve your skills.
  • Pen pal with a correspondent from a foreign country.
  • Contact professional associations and read their publications to learn about job opportunities.
  • Research job postings on the Internet to get an idea of jobs in which knowledge of a foreign language is useful.

Prepared by the Career Planning staff of Career Services at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (2005) UTK is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA Employer

** Related majors available or major offered under a different name at Niagara.