Whether you’re studying a language at an undergraduate, masters or PhD level, you’ll no doubt be thinking about what the career prospects for language students are. The good news is that there are a plethora of career options available for language students. When you study a language, you gain so much more than just being fluent in that language - you also gain in-depth knowledge about the culture in which that language is spoken, a practice in translation, as well as critical and research skills and essay writing.
Speaking and being able to write in a foreign language could give you exactly the advantage you need to make it in the competitive international jobs market. Many organisations value foreign language skills. Knowing a second language in itself might not necessarily guarantee you a job but with additional training, you can become a highly sought-after candidate.
Teaching your newly acquired language is an obvious and popular career option for language students. If education is something that you are truly passionate about, then you can use your language skills to make a real difference in people’s lives, and this can be extremely rewarding.
You can also teach in a variety of settings, in an informal context such as one-on-one tuition with students of all ages, or in a more formal environment such as teaching at a school or university. However, for the latter, you will also need a teaching qualification.
You can also easily connect teaching with our career option for language students #3: travelling. The demand for language - especially English - teachers is high all over the world. There are multiple programmes and organisations helping certified speakers find a job teaching languages in literally every corner of the world: beginning with the Philippines, through Kenya, all the way to Colombia. Those options usually include volunteering, which can be a good option for your gap year after you graduate and take a while to figure out what to do with your life next. If you look hard enough, though, you will find paid positions and if the life of an expat in exotic places appeals to you, then this can be your future! If that sounds like something that calls out to you, check our websites such as AIESEC, Workaway, and Teachaway! They offer great teaching career prospects for language students.
All kinds of industries and companies rely on translation services, and this is why becoming a translator is another appreciated career prospect for language students. There are many voices emerging claiming that in just a few years, the job of a translator will disappear altogether due to machine translations chasing humans away from the career path. That is not the case.
The truth is, machine translations are already implemented in the vast majority of translation services. However, due to their imperfections, translators are still required to go over every piece of text and correct it both in terms of language and cultural accuracy. Machines can translate, but they don't possess the ability to localise - adapt the text to a particular audience and culture. Elements such as idioms, cultural references, puns, or jokes still need to be tended to by actual people and, more often than not, translating them requires a good dose of creativity - something machines do not yet possess. So, in other words, the nature of a translator's work has certainly changed significantly, but the job itself is still out there, where it will remain for a while still. So in case you've been having doubts, don't worry - translation and interpretation are still among the best career options for language students.
Interpretation services are needed for corporate, government and education meetings, while translators tend to work with books, advertisements, websites, reports, documents, research, media, manuals, product packaging, and written correspondences. Many translators also work on a freelance or contract basis, which will appeal to language students who want high levels of freedom, flexibility, and autonomy in their work. It is definitely a good job opportunity for language students.
Large multinational businesses have offices in different countries and can employ people from all over the world. If you also gain business and management skills (for example by following up your Bachelor in languages with a Masters in a Business-related course), then you could be in the perfect position to relocate to an office in a country that you’ve always been curious to live in and explore.
The great thing about a language course is that it opens more doors than more specific courses, such as Architecture or Dentistry. Depending on what other skills you have and what sorts of things you enjoy doing and are good at, you can do virtually anything and anywhere. Language skills are currently sought-after in literally every sector so even if you're not certain what it is that you would like to be doing for a living, your course has provided you with multiple job opportunities for language students.
In fact, you can combine knowledge of a second language with so many other skills that multinational companies desire. The approach taught at many language courses is that language is a tool - you can do whatever you wish with it. With the right tools and additional skills, we can achieve great things. Whatever your passion is, follow it and use your foreign language skills to cast a wider net in terms of where you can work in the world.
For all those travel addicts out there, working in the tourism industry can seem like a no-brainer. If you’re obsessed with travel, then you may just want to spend your working hours talking about travel with others, helping others have unforgettable travel experiences, and enjoying the travelling lifestyle yourself. Making money by travelling is now easier than in the past due to the multiple Social Media channels one can use to document their journeys on - which is probably why it has become such a sought-after career prospect for language students.
Being proficient in a second language opens you up to so many opportunities in the tourism sector, including working for an airline, cruise ship or hotel, as well as being a tour guide, travel agent, travel marketer, and travel writer.
Working in the media also opens you up to many diverse opportunities. For example, you could work in print, TV, or radio, and within those settings, there are, of course, a variety of programmes to cater to your interests: news and politics, sport, entertainment, culture, religion, and so on.
Furthermore, within each programme, there are all sorts of roles that are vital, including proficient writers, editors, producers, and translators. Combining your language skills with a degree in journalism would make you a very attractive candidate for a job in the news industry. The media sector is definitely one of the most attractive career prospects for language students.
Not to mention - many companies within this field offer the opportunity to travel. As a news reporter, you can be sent to literally every country in the world and reside there as an expat. As a journalist, your job will be to stay on top of the latest news in that spot - your position will help you quickly build a network, be constantly on the move, and generally make the best of your experience abroad. This can be done both in the short and long-term manner: you can become the temporary reporter for Berlin, Germany, and live there for a couple of years thanks to your amazing German skills. Or differently: you could have come up with an interesting idea for a piece of news about the Kaljakellunta Beer Floating Festival in Finland and are flying out there for a couple of days because you speak fluent Finnish.
I bet this sounds like something to add to your list of potential career options for language students, doesn't it?
It should also be emphasised that foreign language skills will not only enhance your professional life but also your personal life as well, both locally and overseas. Knowing a second language and the culture that is tied to it will allow you to connect with people in the world on a very deep level that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. This is an invaluable benefit of learning a foreign language.
Today’s guest post comes from Sam Woolfe, who writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships.