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Jobs & Careers

In what kinds of jobs and careers can I use my language skills?

Almost any job, even in the United States, can benefit from your knowing another language. More and more of the U.S. population speaks languages other than English, and jobs in social services, business, communications, and the government all use people with language skills. Language skills set you apart from other workers, making you a better candidate for promotion and work on new projects. Below you will find a list of the kinds of jobs people who major or minor in a second language have chosen:

  • Social services: social worker, probation officer, criminology and law enforcement, school counselor, drug abuse counselor, occupational health care, income maintenance counselor
  • Business and finance: accountant, administration, human resources director, economist, stockbroker, import-export agent, translator/interpreter
  • Communications: reporter, journalist, publisher, editor, interpreter, tour guide, public relations, film producer or director, sports agent, translator/ interpreter
  • Science and Technology: Engineer, chemist physicist, anthropologist, archaeologist, geologist, biologist, oceanographer
  • Education: library science, elementary, secondary, and college level teaching in the US and abroad
  • Government: translator, interpreter, law enforcement, diplomatic foreign service, customs official, legal advisor

Additional possibilities include: advertising copywriter, public relations representative, production manager, technical writer, bilingual educator, Peace Corps volunteer, researcher, World Bank employee, FBI or CIA Agent, U.S. State Department or Foreign Service, United Nations.

General information and strategies for jobs and careers using languages

  • Choose an additional academic area of study to supplement the language, preferably one that requires a high degree of technical skill. Most people with language ability use those skills to assist them in a different career field such as business, education, journalism, law, etc.
  • Choose which language and culture appeals to you most. Consider the level of language ability you will need to acquire for success in your career. Some languages will offer more job opportunities than other languages in various industries or geographic locales.
  • Related courses to study include geography, history, civilization, foreign relations, international law, and world economics.
  • Travel to a foreign country or study abroad in international exchange programs to develop your language skills and international/intercultural competency.
  • Study and practice your foreign language skills by reading foreign newspapers, magazines, and books.
  • Seek opportunities to interact with international students on your campus or members of your local community. Host international students, join relevant student organizations, and participate in international campus events.
  • 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.
  • Correspond with someone from another 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 language is useful.
  • Participate in summer programs, co-ops, and internships to improve your skills.
  • Network with others in the field to learn about job opportunities.
  • In general, international positions are competitive and difficult to obtain. Be very proactive in developing the skills and experiences international employers seek.
  • Get your foot in the door in domestic positions because many international employers promote current employees into international ones.

Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville Career Services Center

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