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What Can You Do With a Modern Language Degree?

What Can You Do With a Modern Language Degree? main image

If you studied a modern language, you’ll be pleased to know you’re very employable! Not only will your knowledge of a foreign language be highly valued by employers, but so too will your cultural awareness and general communication skills. Language skills are in high demand in many different career sectors, especially if you work for a business which operates internationally.

Read on to find out more about which modern language jobs would best suit you, and how to increase your employability in these areas.

Typical modern language jobs

Interpreter Interpreter

Interpreters convert spoken speech or sign language from one language to another. This task splits into three types: simultaneous, consecutive and liaison. Simultaneous interpretation involves translating while the speaker is still talking and it is usually used in large conferences or meetings. In consecutive interpretation the speaker will pause, usually after each sentence, and this is more common in smaller meetings. Liaison interpretation again involves the speaker pausing and is usually used for public service, such as in a hospital or legal setting, to ensure that people less fluent in a language can understand what is being said to them.

To gain entry to this role, you’ll need an excellent command of both your native language and the foreign language/s you plan to interpret. You may also find it useful to have a postgraduate qualification in interpretation and/or knowledge of a particularly high-demand or minority language. Many interpreters work on a freelance basis and find work through networking, directories and agencies, and you should be prepared for the high level of concentration required in this role, which can be tiring. Some translators and interpreters are employed in the public service, which may require an additional diploma.

Translator Translating

Translators convert written material from one language to another, aiming to keep the meaning and message of the text as accurate and close to the original as possible. Translators usually translate texts into their mother tongue, and they might also localize the text to culturally and linguistically adapt it to its audience. The role involves consulting with clients, using translation computer software and using online and offline research methods to aid translations.

Again, many translators are self-employed, but it can be helpful to build up experience and connections by working as an in-house translator before going freelance. It would also be beneficial to have specialist knowledge in sought-after fields such as finance, science, engineering or law. You may need to take up another part-time job whilst starting out as a translator, as you may not immediately find enough work to support yourself, but as you build up your experience, contacts and knowledge, there’s a good chance of progression in the role.

Modern language jobs in education

Your modern language degree could also be very useful in the education sector, including as a teacher. You could teach the language you learned during your degree to students of any age, or teach your native tongue to speakers of another language. You’ll need to gain a postgraduate qualification in teaching for this career, and will also need good communication and leadership skills, as well as creativity in planning practical learning methods to keep your students engaged.

Other careers for modern language graduates

International development worker Relief worker

International development workers help to improve the lives of people and communities in the developing world by setting up long-term, stable solutions to problems. This is a diverse sector, as you could work in anything from education, environment, human rights and disaster relief. You could be involved in administration, research, fundraising, relief work and more. Depending on the region and your language skills, your role could be essential in ensuring effective cross-cultural communication.

Diplomacy

If you want to represent your home country and its citizens in another country, diplomacy is another career in which your modern language degree will be useful. You’ll usually be relocated to another country and work at your home country’s consulate, commission or embassy, with a variety of tasks and responsibilities, including dealing with issues such as conflict resolution, counter terrorism and climate change. This career would be ideal if you’re interested and knowledgeable in foreign affairs and want to combine this with your language skills. If you’re from the UK, entry to this role is via the Civil Service Fast Stream.

Broadcast journalist

Modern language graduates would also be suited to roles within the media, in either online, multimedia or print journalism. Your skills in analyzing written and visual sources and constructing arguments would be ideal for a role as a broadcast journalist, sourcing, investigating and presenting interesting and accurate content on current affairs on the web, print, television or the radio.

Business, logistics and finance careers Business careers

If you want to work in the fast-paced business and management industry, your language skills would be highly valued by many professional services organizations, due to your ability to work with international clients and help manage global business connections. One of the many sectors in which modern language graduates are sought after is finance – banks, insurance companies and accountancy firms function on an international basis and offer opportunities both to work with foreign clients from the UK or to work in an overseas office.

Another career in which your language skills can be put to good use is in a role as a logistics and distribution manager, which would suit you if you like co-ordinating and overseeing processes to their completion, where goods or equipment will be moved through international borders.

Marketing, advertising and public relations (PR) careers

The communications skills gained during your modern language degree could also be useful for roles in marketing, advertising or PR. For these roles you’ll work closely with both colleagues and clients, concentrating on creating communications that will appeal to your target audience. After building up experience in the industry you could take on account management responsibilities, becoming an expert in how to promote a product, service, business or individual to the world.

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 ‘What Can You Do With a Modern Languages Degree?’ is part of our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series. 

We have also covered artbiologybusinesscommunicationscomputer science, Englishengineeringfashionhistorygeographylawmarketingmathematics,

performing arts, philosophypolitics, psychologysociologychemistryeconomics and physics.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina edits and publishes articles which guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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1 Comment

Hi Sabrina... This is Nestor from Colombia, South America where spanish is spoken. I came all the way along to Australia to study english and improve my portuguese. I do love languages and my plans are to stay in Melbourne to improve both languages and study a career like Interpreting and Traslation or Modern Languages. I have found that just in one uni (RMTI) I can study the former career between english and spanish but I do not count with the enough money to afford 2 semesters that lasts this Graduate Diploma. I want to know about scholarships that I can get as a International student from South America. Thanks in advanced. I would really appreciate your help.