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Careers in the Japanese Language

Jobs for Japanese speakers often involve translation and teaching, but there are also other opportunities. This article provides an illustrative, but not exhaustive, overview of further career possibilities for speakers of Japanese.

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Careers that Incorporate Japanese Language

When most people think of jobs for Japanese speakers, they may think of careers involving teaching the language abroad or perhaps working as a translators. While these are both excellent examples of careers available to speakers of Japanese, they are by no means the full range of possibilities. Below are some examples of career options for those whose speak Japanese.

Career Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
High School Teacher $58,030 6%
Translator $46,120 29%
Purchasing Agent $60,700 2%
Flight Attendant $48,500 2%
Political Scientist $114,290 -2% (decline)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Japanese Speakers

Teacher

One common career path that involves the Japanese language is that of a teacher. Positions can be found teach Japanese to English speakers in U.S. schools, or college graduates could find jobs teaching English abroad. One of the advantages of teaching abroad is the ability to network with local businesses, perhaps finding future opportunities employment for yourself along the way.

Japanese speakers who prefer not to teach overseas are well-suited to teaching Japanese to English students. Typically these positions are for high school teachers, but with a graduate degree, teaching at the university level is a possibility as well. High school teachers need a bachelor's degree as well as state licensure or certufucation.

Translator

Similar to teaching, translation is a classic path of study for the average foreign language student and can encompass working in a variety of industries. However, those that can specialize in different areas of expertise are highly sought after by employers and individual clients. For instance, Japanese translators specializing in entertainment have the unique opportunity to translate Japanese media that has become popular in the Western world, such as manga, anime, and video games.

Translation can require hours of work based on the length and complexity of the project. This time may be spent searching for advanced vocabulary or correctly phrasing words that have multiple meanings or Japanese idioms to the English equivalent and vice versa. A bachelor's degree is often required for professional positions, but being fluent in both languages is the top priority.

Purchasing Agent

In a world of global trade, another job option for speakers of Japanese is in the field of imports and exports. Importers and exporters may work with Japanese companies and need to be able to hold conversations and ask technical questions of their colleagues.

Working as a buyer or purchasing agent in importing and exporting typically requires skills in accounting, customer service, as well as supply and manufacturing management. A bachelor's degree in an area like business or finance is often necessary to enter this field.

Flight Attendant

While bilingualism is not a requirement for most flight attendant jobs, it is a skill many employers actively seek out. Even on a non-Japanese airline, it can be invaluable having a member of the flight crew with the foreign language skills to help a customer who does not speak English very well.

Flight attendants work challenging hours, such as on long transcontinental flights, but have the chance to visit many countries and cities. For speakers of Japanese, this can be an exciting opportunity to put their skills to use. A high school diploma is needed to enter the career, as well as certification from the FAA.

Political Scientist

A career in this field offers the opportunity to witness and influence international policy. As researchers who analyze governments and their relations with other nations, political scientists often read historical and current policy documents to develop theories and forecast future trends. They also use public opinion polls, election results, and economic data in their research.

These professionals may use their Japanese language skills to read foreign documents or explain foreign concepts to their English-speaking diplomatic colleagues during presentations. You typically need at least a master's degree to enter this job market, though a Ph.D. is required for some positions.

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