Career Information for a Degree in Foreign Languages

Mar 09, 2019

Some people have a knack for speaking foreign languages and are able to remember vocabulary and tenses with little trouble. If this sounds like you, a degree program in foreign languages might prepare you to begin a career using your talent. Read on to learn about foreign language career possibilities, such as teaching or translating.

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Career Options in Foreign Language

With a degree in foreign languages, the world of communication opens up. In addition to being able to travel to other countries and speak with their inhabitants, graduates can use their linguistic skills to find rewarding employment in fields such as foreign language teaching, interpreting or consulting.

Foreign Language Teachers Translators and Interpreters Consultants
Education Bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Job Duties Help students develop knowledge in a second language Convey knowledge or information from speakers of one language to audiences of another Ease cultural tensions and ensure smooth communication
Median Salary(2017)* $65,010 (postsecondary foreign language teachers) $47,190 $82,450 (management analysts)
Job Outlook(2016-2026)* 12% (postsecondary foreign language teachers) 18% 14% (management analysts)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Foreign Language Teachers

Foreign language teachers and professors work with students to help develop knowledge and competence in a second language. As America's economy and culture become more integrated with our neighbors, foreign language knowledge is growing in importance as a life skill and workplace qualification. Foreign language teachers can work in a wide variety of environments, from public schools and universities to private, self-enrichment classes.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong employment growth for postsecondary teachers, with employment opportunities increasing 12% for postsecondary foreign language teachers from 2016-2026. The median salary for postsecondary foreign language teachers in May 2017 was around $65,010.

Translators and Interpreters

Translators and interpreters work to convey knowledge and information from speakers or writers of one language to audiences who speak another. Translators typically work with written texts while interpreters work with spoken, usually real-time conversations and speeches.

This job requires perfect knowledge of at least two languages, sharp wits and an energetic personality. The BLS projects job demand for these professions to increase by 18% from 2016-2026, which is much faster than average. The median salary for these workers in 2017 was $47,190.

Consultants

As businesses and corporations continue expanding their reach beyond U.S. borders, they sometimes need to employ foreign workers. While necessary, this can cause disruptions in communication. For example, foreign workers may not be able to use company software until it is translated into their native tongue. Cultural issues such as local customs, taboos or religious practices can also give rise to miscommunication. For these reasons, multinational companies are increasingly turning to localization and cultural consultants to facilitate communication.

These workers help to ease cultural tensions and ensure smooth communication. The BLS reports that management analysts (also known as management consultants) could see a 14% rise in jobs from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This group earned a median salary of $82,450 per year in 2017.

What Is a Degree in Foreign Languages?

Knowing a second language can provide many advantages for business, travel and personal satisfaction. Not only is learning a second language exciting, it also gives students a greater appreciation of the history and culture surrounding that language, and, by extension, of all cultures - including their own. Courses in foreign languages degree programs can include, but are not limited to:

  • Applied Phonetics
  • Civilization and Cultural History
  • Conversation and Composition
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Reading Skills
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