Language careers are open to students who have studied languages single honours or combined and to fluent speakers of other languages from any discipline.
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
Although there are many occupations where languages are useful, there are only a few where languages are always essential including 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.
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 this career guide to translation.
Interpreting is a tiny and stressful career area, which can be difficult to break into on a full-time basis. Employers include international organisations.
To become a subtitler you require an interest in language and excellent articulation. You need to be able to work well under pressure and have experience of working to tight deadlines. Degrees in languages or literature tend to be preferred.
- The Subtitlers' Association is a good starting point.
- European Association for Studies in Screen Translation
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
Other occupations where a languages 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!
- Finance – banks, insurance companies and accountancy firms operate on an international basis and offer opportunities both to work with foreign clients from the UK and to be seconded to overseas offices. See Accountancy, banking and finance on prospects.ac.uk
- Food and Drink – sourcing products from around the world and negotiating with suppliers demands good language skills. Many Kent companies (such as MW Mack and Gomez) are involved in importing fruit and veg from mainland Europe – and don’t forget the wine trade!
- Law – many of the large commercial firms in London also have offices in other European capitals and commercial centres (particularly in Brussels)
- Sales and Marketing - with British companies needing to export their products or with multinational companies and Marketing, Advertising and PR on prospects.ac.uk
- Transport, Tourism and Leisure – freight distribution, air and sea transport, hotel management, travel agency work, courier/tour guide Transport
- Public Sector – the Civil Service; local authorities, international organisations
- International Organisations, including the UN and the EU institutions
- Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) You do not usually need a degree in a relevant language to teach English abroad – it is normally sufficient to be a native or fluent speaker of English. Obviously a knowledge of the language where you are working is useful for day-to-day living, but the biggest demand for EFL teachers comes from countries such as China and Russia where few graduates will have studied their language at university. See out TEFL pages for more information.
For more information on ways in which language skills can be used in a variety of different careers see What can I do with a modern languages degree on TargetJobs.co.uk
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 What can I do with my degree on prospects.ac.uk.
Modern language employers
- VSI Dubbing and Subtitling
- Glocal Media specialises in subtitling, translation, transcription and voice-over.
- Iyuno-SDI translation and website localisation.
- Deluxe Media subtitling, digital asset management and audio description. Content management service company.
- Ai Media captioning company in London. Recruit subtitlers to provide real-time captions via Ai-Live platform.
- The Knowledge
- KFTV (formerly Kemps Directory) International media production opportunities including translation and subtitling.
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.
- Beiersdorf Beyond Borders Graduate Programme
- Cargill European Graduate Programme
- Diageo European Graduate Programme
- EasyJet European Graduate Programme
- Goodyear Dunlop European Graduate Programme
- Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
- Heineken International Graduate Programme
- Inter-Continental Hotels European Graduate Programme
- Reckitt Benckiser European Graduate Programme
- Red Bull European Graduate Programme
- The Security Service (MI5)
- Sony European Graduate Programme
Information on European employers in the UK
The following sites should provide lists of members of these associations:
- Austrian Trade Commission
- Franco-British Chamber of Commerce & Industry
- German Industry UK represents 250 companies in the UK with a German majority shareholding
- German-British Chamber of Industry & Commerce
- Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry for the UK
- Italian companies in the UK
- Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain
- British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce
- The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission
- Lingo24 - translation agency whose site includes advice on careers in translation, case studies and useful links
- RWS Group Patent and other specialist translation services company which regularly recruits graduates interested in a language-based career
- EVS Translation German speakers recruited
- AST Language Services based in Nottingham
- betterlanguages.com translation and localisation agency based in Nottingham. Always on the look out for talented language graduates to join our team.
- The Association of Translation Companies has a list of members
Recruitment agencies for linguists
- iAgora international jobs and internships
- Appointments Bi-Language place language graduates into roles from translation and interpreting to sales, customer service and secretarial, in the UK and abroad.
- Corinium Language Associates
- Euro London Appointments the largest independent language recruitment consultancy in Europe with offices in London, Windsor, Manchester, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Luxembourg and Zurich.
- Europe Language Jobs specialises in multilingual job offers across the UK and Europe.
- French Recruitment help students with fluency in French to find a job at the end of their studies in the UK. Focus on business related jobs but welcome candidates with non-business background.
- French Selection Recruitment specialist for jobs mainly UK based for French, German or Spanish speaking professionals.
- The Language Business
- The Language Export Centre
- Multilingual Vacancies
- Top Language Jobs operates the largest European network of language recruitment websites where leading language recruitment agencies and employers promote their permanent, temporary and contract language jobs
Find out more
Freelance language teacher
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).
- Information about study for a Masters or PhD degree can be found on the Postgraduate Study section of this web site.
- Information on Teacher training courses from the Graduate Teacher Training Registry
- Information on TEFL courses in our 'I Want To Work In TEFL and teaching abroad' webpage
- Search for courses across the UK and abroad. Prospects; Target postgraduate course search
Useful links and information sources
- Study Abroad
- Work Abroad Prospects.ac.uk/working-abroad ; Targetjobs.co.uk/working-abroad
- Options with a Language Degree
- Using your Language Skills
- The Institute of Linguists
- The international language association
- Association for Language Learning – professional association for language teachers
- DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service information on funding to study in Germany