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Foreign Language: What Can I Do With This Degree?

Government

  • 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

Information & 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

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

Employers

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

Information & 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

  • 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

Information & 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 U.S. working for a firm with an overseas presence. Very few entry level positions are available in international business.

Travel and Tourism

  • 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

Information & 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

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

Information & 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

  • 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
  • Preschools
  • K-12 schools
  • Professional language schools
  • English language institutes
  • Overseas dependents' schools

Information & 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.
  • Obtain a graduate degree for college or university teaching opportunities.
  • Get experience by becoming a teacher 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 Strategies

  • 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.
Download a PDF of this chart for easy printing.

Next Steps

Learn about North Park's French, Spanish, and Scandinavian studies programs.

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