Pick a foreign language, any foreign language. No matter what language it is, the beauty of having a language degree is that there is no one given career path following graduation. Language degrees can open up opportunities in areas that you may never even have thought to look.
We’ve already spoken directly about teaching, translating and interpreting as career options, but this list of 10 possible careers with a language degree aims to look beyond the obvious into the exciting potential job that could be in your future with a language degree.
As a foreign civil, or public, servant in civil service, you’ll work overseas for a governmental department or agency, aside from the military. This type of position revolves around foreign affairs and international relations. Individuals with degrees in language are prime candidates, due to the fact that you’ll be placed abroad and likely in a country in which the primary language is not English. The duties assigned to each respective foreign service will vary based on your home country but can range from aiding international adoptions to negotiating and communicating with foreign government officials. A job in foreign service would be perfect for those who have a passion for immersing themselves in new countries and cultures, but who also are highly motivated and dedicated in supporting the U.S. and helping the U.S. gain and maintain positive foreign relations.
In working with an airline that flies internationally, you’ll have passengers from all over the world on every international flight. This isn’t to say you will be required to speak in every passenger’s native tongue, but most likely, you’d be flying back and forth from the U.S. to the same foreign country, and you will need to know both English and the language of that country. For example, if you’d work for Spanish airline Iberia, you would need to speak both Spanish and English to accommodate the majority of the passengers on flights between the U.S. and Spain. Whether as a pilot or a flight attendant, you would get to use both your native and second language on a daily basis at work and be constantly traveling internationally – the perfect job for someone with a language degree and wanderlust.
You could be taking goods and services to an international level of recognition. You could be working in a specific language or cultural division of an agency, in which you are creating advertisements in your second language. In advertising, you could be doing either of these things and more with your language degree. For example, in areas of the U.S. that have a high population density of native Spanish speakers, there are typically entire departments dedicated to creating advertisements in Spanish for a Spanish-speaking market. A career in advertising would be ideal for creative types who are excited by innovation and the ability to evoke reactions and emotions of people through their work.
The editing and publishing industry includes but is not limited to newspapers, magazines and publishing houses. In fact, most businesses require someone on staff with copy editing abilities to proofread and clean up written work, like newsletters, press releases and important documents. Additionally, there are likely more businesses than you could ever possibly imagine whose daily proceedings demand for bilingual and/or multilingual employees. This could mean drafting and editing letters to clients or business partners in both English and another language. This could mean editing the instruction manual for a product, which comes in a number of different languages. It could even mean editing and publishing software in multiple languages. Editing and publishing is a field that has its hands in every other, putting its finishing touches on the world’s text and giving you the opportunity to exhibit your language degree in international businesses and corporations of all kinds.
Being able to speak properly and write well in another language might mean you’re the perfect fit for the television and movie industries. With a language degree, you could be writing subtitles or doing voice-overs for films, documentaries and series. While major film making takes places in many countries worldwide, the United States is the crux of the industry. When American films are released in other countries, subtitles or voice-overs are necessary for the film to be understood on an international level. For those who feel their strengths lie in written language, writing subtitles for films is a unique career opportunity, in which you must not only translate the word but also their sentiments. On the other hand, voice-overs would be ideal for those who excel in spoken language and have impeccable pronunciation, enunciation, and grammar.
Every day, events are happening all over the world, joining together people from different countries and cultures. Say, for example, you’re planning the wedding of a couple from two different countries. You’ll not only have to cater to the cultures of both families, but it’s likely that you’ll be speaking in more than one foreign language, especially if the event is happening in another country. An event coordinator that is bi- or multilingual would be a huge asset in many arenas, from businesses that have international relationships and are bringing everyone together in one room or an individual wanting to throw a party with international guests in attendance. Thinking on an even larger scale, world events, such as the Olympics, need employees that can speak more than one language to help accommodate the people from over 200 nations that come in for the games, whether as athletes, spectators, reporters and more.
No matter what the medical situation is – whether it be a regular check-up or a surprise trip to the emergency room – the first people you’re going to deal with, and frankly, the people you’re going to interact the most with, are the nurses. While knowing a second language isn’t a nursing requirement, nurses that can help someone struggling with the native language of the doctor’s office or hospital they’re in are invaluable. What can be a panicked and scary situation for a patient or a patient’s family can be turned into a tranquil and smooth-rolling process in the matter of seconds, due to a nurse’s knowledge of a patient’s native tongue. Look for areas of the country you want to live in that have a high population of the second language you speak for places where you’d surely be welcomed with open arms as a member of the nursing staff.
Particularly for those who have a language degree in French, although also extremely pertinent to Italian and Spanish as well, becoming a sommelier is a unique career path that could lead you to a position in a fine dining establishment in any number of countries. A sommelier is a wine professional, who deals with every aspect of the wine for a business, most commonly a restaurant, from procurement and storage to cellar rotation and consumer services. Tasks such as creating wine pairings and lists can also be part of the job description. As France, Italy and Spain are the top three wine-producing countries in the world, the ability to speak French, Italian and/or Spanish, while not necessary, would be extremely beneficial to this career path, especially when communicating with vintners, i.e., winemakers, international dining guests or at international wine events.
While the international shipment of products is a process that is constantly happening all around us, it is a process we are largely unconscious of. However, import/export specialists are the individuals who perform the tasks of making sure products meet customs rules and regulations, helping clients with insurance and reducing their taxes and duties, and preparing and tracking the shipments. Import/export businesses are stationed all over the world, providing you with the opportunity to use both your native language and second language on a daily basis when communicating with clients and customs agents.
Hotel management is the perfect career opportunity to live and work in another country – or your own country – and put your language degree to good use. If abroad, you’ll likely be using your second language with fellow hotel staff and locals the majority of the time, but your native tongue will also come in handy with guests from your home country. If you’re based at a hotel in your home country, try to find a position in a hotel that receives a large number of international guests, particularly from countries that speak the language you studied in college. By working in a hotel, or even a hostel, you will get the most well-rounded use of your language degree, since you will be explaining many basic things to people, like the layout of the hotel and attractions nearby.