LANGUAGE CAREERS

including "What can I do with a Degree in Modern Languages?"

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INTRODUCTION

This section has been written for all undergraduate and postgraduate students of modern languages at the University of Kent. It attempts to give a brief answer to the question: "What can I do with my degree?" and an overview of the many and varied ways in which you can use your language skills in a career. This information is also likely to be of interest to students of other subjects whose degree includes a language (such as European Studies or English and French Law) and to students who have a good knowledge of another language through their personal background even if they have never studied languages formally.

Although your main interest may be in how to make the best use of your degree subject, there are many issues which are common to all undergraduates and postgraduates planning their careers. Some of these are covered in our Choosing a Career pages, which will help you to assess your strengths, weaknesses, interests, abilities and skills in order to relate career options to you.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE I GAINED ON MY COURSE?

The primary skill you have gained on your course is your ability to communicate at a high level in another language, together with a knowledge of another country and its life and culture. However, employers will be at least as interested in the more general skills you have developed.

These are likely to include written and verbal communication (in English as well as in your other language[s]); analytical skills; initiative and self-reliance (developed through your year abroad); time management and personal organisational skills.

OCCUPATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH LANGUAGES

Be suspicious of native-born Esperanto speakers.

Coup de grâce - French for lawnmower.

If English is supposed to be the lingua franca, how come there’s no word in English for lingua franca?

There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.

Jennifer Doubleday

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart. 

Nelson Mandela

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English - up to fifty words used in correct context - no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

Carl Sagan

Through learning language, we learn about culture.
Through learning about culture, we learn respect for others.
Through learning respect for others, we can hope for peace.

Un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue.
Un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue.
Un homme qui ne parle qu'une langue est anglais.
A man who speaks three language is trilingual.
A man who speaks two languages is bilingual.
A man who speaks only one language is English.

Claude Gagnière

Although there are many occupations where languages are useful, the only ones where languages are always essential are teaching, translating and interpreting.

Teaching may involve teaching the language you have studied to speakers of English, in schools or in further/higher education, or teaching English to speakers of other languages. The second option does not normally require any knowledge of your students’ language, as teaching is carried out entirely through English, but this would often be helpful, especially for working abroad. See our Teaching pages at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteach.htm

Translating is often of technical or specialist material and is likely to require further study. Many translators work on a freelance basis. Organisations employing staff translators include the European institutions (a knowledge of three EU languages is required here), GCHQ, the Security Service and translation agencies such as RWS. Lingo24 have created a career guide to translation www.lingo24.com/careerguide.html

Interpreting is a tiny and stressful career area, which can be difficult to break into on a full-time basis. Employers include international organisations.

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See our web page on careers in translating and interpreting

Of course, a knowledge of the relevant language is also essential when working in another country, or working in a situation which requires regular contact with speakers of that language

SOME OTHER OCCUPATIONS WHERE A LANGUAGE DEGREE WOULD BE USEFUL

Most of these job roles will value language skills and possessing them will potentially open up more opportunities in your career. You may not always have the opportunity to use them on a day-to-day basis as a new graduate, but be patient!

 

For more information on ways in which language skills can be used in a variety of different careers see www.prospects.ac.uk/using_your_language_skills.htm

CAREERS OPEN TO ALL GRADUATES

About 40% of all vacancies advertised for graduates do not ask for a specific degree subject. However, you may sometimes need postgraduate training or work experience.

Major areas of graduate recruitment include Business and Finance, Computing and IT, Education, Marketing, Public Sector Management but there are many more opportunities.

For more information on career choice and graduate opportunities generally, see www.prospects.ac.uk/your_degree_what_next_skills_gained.htm

WHO EMPLOYS MODERN LANGUAGES GRADUATES

GRADUATE RECRUITMENT PROGRAMMES

Below is a list of some graduate recruitment programmes that either require language skills or which offer the chance to work in other European countries. However, as noted above, many other employers will be able to make use of your languages, or post you abroad, at some point during your career.

Information on European employers in the UK

The following sites should provide lists of members of these associations:

Translation services

Recruitment agencies for linguists

WORKING ABROAD

Approximately 10% of language graduates obtain their first job after graduation outside the UK. This compares with less than 2% of graduates overall. Few of these jobs, though, are "career posts" - more often, they are seen as a way to live abroad for a little longer without necessarily offering any long-term prospects. Most recent graduates working abroad are, in fact, teaching English as a foreign language (although this can be a long-term career if the graduate wants).

It may be more difficult for new graduates to enter the type of "career posts" abroad that they might expect to obtain in this country. In the UK Humanities graduates can easily enter careers in business and finance which would only be open to graduates with business-related degrees in most other European countries. It is usually easier to join a graduate training scheme with a UK (or UK-based multinational) employer in this country, and then move with them to another country after two or three years, than to get onto an equivalent scheme abroad.

Non-EU countries will also have work permit regulations that may prevent or limit your taking up employment.
Many websites can provide information on working abroad, either generally or in relation to specific countries. See our International Links section or the PROSPECTS website.

POSTGRADUATE STUDY

WHAT DO MODERN LANGUAGES GRADUATES DO?

Over the last three years the destinations of graduates in Modern Languages have broken down as follows:

Working in the UK 49 %
Working abroad 9 %
Further study 27 %
Time out/Unavailable 7 %
Unemployed
6 %
Other 2 %

( Figures from HESA www.prospects.ac.uk/links/wdgd )

Below you will find some examples of the destinations of past Kent graduates in modern languages and related subjects

 

These statistics only cover the first six months after graduation. A significant number of graduates are, at this stage, engaged in work which they would regard as temporary - using a short-term job to gain work experience that could act as a stepping-stone to a better position, or earning money to finance postgraduate study or time out travelling, for example. Please remember this if some of the graduate destinations listed seem surprising or discouraging

Examples of jobs and postgraduate study entered by Kent language graduates

Arts, Culture Media and Heritage Sector

History of Art & Italian

Brook Lapping (TV)             

Researcher

French

Glyndebourne

Customer Service Administrator

French

Church of England

Archives Assistant

Business and Finance Sector

European St (ComLangs)

Banco Sabadell

Administrator

French & Business Admin.

Man Financial

Operations Analyst

French & Spanish

L'Oréal                                

Commercial Team Assistant

German & Business Admin

Fidelity International

Offshore Account Associate

French & Italian

Marlow Ropes

Customer Services Export

Cultural Studies (Spanish)

Deloitte

Tax Associate

Hispanic Studies

Pan European Potatoes

Export Sales & Marketing

German & Business Admin.

BT Global Services

Multilingual Network Support Analyst

Education Sector

Italian & Spanish

School

SCITT (teacher training)

French & German

University of Reims            

Language Assistant

French & Spanish

Stafford House School of English

Student Activity Leader

French

Fosse Bank School

French Teacher

German

Gwangsung School, Korea

English Language Teacher

Health Sector

French

NHS Trust

Health Visitor

Hospitality Sector

European St. (French)

 

Assistant Events Co-ordinator

Spanish & Business Admin

IPQC (Events Company)

Events Executive

Spanish & Business Admin.

Institute of Engineers

Events Assistant

Property and Construction Sector

French

French Property Agents

Head of Administration

Hispanic Studies

 

Management trainee (Property)

Public Sector

Spanish & Business Admin  

District Council  

Admin. Ass't          Environmental Health

French

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Administrator

Social and Welfare Sector

French & Spanish

Help The Aged

Fundraiser

Tourism, Sports and Leisure Sector

European St. (French)

Mark Warner

Customer Service Officer

Italian & Spanish

Thomson

Ski Representative

Transport & Logistics Sector

French & History of Art       

Clothing Company

Logistics Administrator

Hispanic Studies

London Underground

Document Controller & Team Admin.

Postgraduate study

European St. (German)

University of Nottingham

MA Diplomacy

French

University of Kent

MA French Literature

French

Stendhal University

MA Literature

French

University of Cambridge

M.Phil Linguistics

French

University of Kent

MA Modern French Studies

French

Univ Transmanche

MA Intercultural Relations

French & Business Admin.

University of Westminster

MA International Business Management

French & History of Art

University of Essex

MA Gallery Studies

French & Spanish

University of Kent

MA Hispanic Studies

French & Spanish

University of Wales Swansea

MA Translation Studies

German

London School of Journalism

Diploma in Journalism

LONGER-TERM PROSPECTS

A survey by the School of European Culture and Languages of Kent language graduates ten years after leaving the University found respondents working in the following areas:

 

Plus one person in each of the following career areas: Drugs Counsellor; Translator; Film Publicist; Italian Fashion Manager for Vogue; Museum Curator; IT Training Officer; Communications Manager for international business consultancy.

Although most of these graduates were based in the UK, more than a third had lived abroad at some point and more than half had travelled abroad in the course of their work.

OTHER OPTIONS

Like many graduates, you may not want to go straight into a full-time job or course when you graduate. Alternatives may include time out, voluntary work or starting your own business - but all these need thorough investigation and planning. The links provided will help you to make a start.

USEFUL LINKS AND INFORMATION SOURCES

OTHER PAGES ON THIS SITE

 

Un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue.
Un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue.
Un homme qui ne parle qu'une langue est anglais.
A man who speaks three language is trilingual.
A man who speaks two languages is bilingual.
A man who speaks only one language is English.

Claude Gagnière

Be suspicious of native-born Esperanto speakers.

Coup de grâce - French for lawnmower.

There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all - Jennifer Doubleday

 

Last fully updated 2012