Modern Languages Careers
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 English and French Law or Anthropology with a year in Japan) and to students who have a good knowledge of another language through their personal background even if they have never studied languages formally.
The occupations listed below are those where a degree (or fluency in) a language other than English is most likely to be an essential requirement for the job:
European Commission Administrator
Administrators in the European Commission, and other EU institutions, carry out a variety of roles which could involve drafting policy analysis, developing, implementing and monitoring projects and programmes across Europe, supporting decision-makers, managing human and financial resources and maintaining relations with EU Member States. There is an annual graduate recruitment scheme; graduates may also gain experience of the European institutions through six-month traineeships. A good knowledge of at least two European languages is required, one of which must be English, French or German.
Interpreters facilitate effective communication between speakers of different languages in settings which may include conferences, meetings, presentations and criminal justice proceedings.
I want to work in Interpreting or Translating
Secondary school teacher
To teach in state schools (excluding academies and free schools) in England and Wales, you must complete a period of “initial teacher training”, such as a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course or school-centred training, which leads to Qualified Teacher Status. It is important to build up teaching-related experience during your undergraduate degree and to apply early for teacher training.
Job profile of a secondary school teacher from the Prospects website
Job profile of a secondary school teacher from the TARGET Jobs website
Get Into Teaching website from the Department for Education - explains the various routes into teaching
I want to work in Teaching
Translators convert written material from one languages into another (normally the translator’s mother tongue) ensuring that the meaning of the original is conveyed as clearly as possible. Most translations are of business, legal, scientific and technical documents.
Please note that some of these careers may require further study.
For further information on these careers, see also:
- I Want To Work In
- Information on types of jobs from Prospects
- Information on career sectors from TARGETjobs
Many people in Modern Languages roles are self-employed.
Thank you to Prospects for the content on these pages.
Language skills may be useful in the following career areas:
Civil Service Fast Stream
The Fast Stream is a development programme designed to prepare graduates for careers at the highest levels of the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service. The European Fast Stream prepares French and German speakers for careers in the European institutions by providing experience working on European policy issues and continuing language training.
Job profile of an Civil Service Fast Streamer from the Prospects website
Job profile of a Civil Service administrator from the TARGET Jobs website
Job profile of a diplomat from the TARGET Jobs website
Civil Service Fast Stream website
Intelligence analysts work to protect UK national security and to detect and prevent serious organised crime through the acquisition, evaluation, analysis and assessment of secret intelligence. Organisations such as GCHQ and the Security Service (MI5) recruit language analysts.
I want to work in Intelligence
Sales executives sell a company's products and services to customers including businesses and public sector organisations, in the UK and/or abroad. They approach potential customers with the aim of winning new business; and work to maintain good relationships with existing clients in order to gain repeat business. Language skills are important for developing and maintaining relationships with international clients.
I want to work in Sales
Solicitors provide expert legal support and advice to clients (who may be individuals, groups, public sector organisations or private companies), take instructions from clients and advise on necessary courses of legal action. Many large commercial law firms work on an international basis and value language skills. Non-law graduates can enter the legal profession after a one-year conversion course, which in some cases may be funded by future employers.
I want to work in Law
Teacher of English as a Foreign Language
Teaching the English language to speakers of another language. This can take place in a variety of settings, in the UK and overseas, with students ranging from primary school age to adult.
I want to work in TEFL and Teaching Abroad
Tourist guides show visitors around towns and cities, historic buildings, gardens, religious sites or museums and art galleries. They may work in the UK, guiding visitors from abroad, or guide groups of British tourists on overseas visits.
Trade Mark Attorney
Trade mark attorneys advise clients about protecting and enforcing their worldwide trade mark rights and other intellectual property issues, such as copyright, registered designs and licensing. Language skills are often an essential requirement for employers in this sector.
You may be interested in graduate roles outside of modern languages. There are many employers who are looking for graduates with good degrees but that don’t have a preference for the subject studied. To explore different career options see:
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.
A graduate in Modern Languages will typically have the ability to:
- Read, write, listen to and speak in a foreign language to levels of ability appropriate to the target language and to the learning outcomes of the degree programme
- Use effectively reference materials such as grammars and dictionaries and to learn other languages with relative ease
- Apply analytical, critical and specialist skills
- Show curiosity and openness towards other cultures
- Reflect and judge critically in the light of evidence and argument
- Organise and present ideas in a framework of a structured and reasoned argument
- Be self-reliant, adaptable and flexible
- Deploy skills in note taking and summarising, library research, IT, analysis and problem solving
- Write and think under pressure and meet deadlines
- Communicate and work creatively and flexibly with others.
This is not an exhaustive list of skills - you will develop many skills from your course, extra-curricular activities and work experience. Find out more about the skills employers look for and how you can develop them.
Find a job
The Careers and Employability Service provides information and advice on job searching to University of Kent students and recent graduates. This includes a vacancy database advertising a range of graduate jobs, sandwich placements and vacation work/internships and online resources. The websites listed below may also be useful when searching for a job and when looking for further information on this sector.
European or international graduate recruitment schemes
A few employers run graduate recruitment programmes which offer the chance to work in other European countries during your training: some of these are listed below. However, many other employers will be able to make use of your language skills, or give you the chance to work abroad, at some point during your career.
- Cargill European Graduate Programme
- EasyJet European Graduate Programme
- Goodyear Dunlop European Graduate Programme
- Heineken International Graduate Programme
- Inter-Continental Hotels European Graduate Programme
- Telefonica Pan-European Graduate Programme
Recruitment agencies and jobs boards for linguists
- Appointments Bi-Language
- Corinium Language Associates
- Euro London Appointments
- Europe Language Jobs
- French Recruitment
- French Selection (also recruits speakers of German, Italian, Russian and Spanish)
- The Language Business
- The Language Export Centre
- Multilingual Vacancies
Other employers and resources
Postgraduate study may enable you to explore aspects of languages in greater depth, to learn a new language, to gain a vocational qualification or to study a completely new subject.
A postgraduate qualification is a requirement or an advantage for some fields of work related to Modern languages, such as interpreter, translator or teacher. However, many careers will not require further academic qualifications. The Types of Jobs section of the Prospects website will tell you whether postgraduate study is essential, useful or not needed for a specific career.
Some courses undertaken by past Kent graduates in Modern Languages include:
- MA Translation Studies
- Postgraduate Certificate in Education
- Graduate Diploma in Law
- MA International Relations
- MSc Media and Communications
- MSc Management
There is no equivalent of UCAS for postgraduate study, so investigate courses early.
If you are already a student on a taught Master’s degree, you may wish to continue your studies by research, in the UK (at Kent or elsewhere) or overseas. Again, early planning is important. You should seek advice from your supervisor as to the possible options
There are many reasons for choosing to continue into postgraduate study. You may wish to obtain a higher degree purely for interest rather than for career reasons. Whatever your motivation, you need to consider issues such as your suitability for further study, the options available to you and the costs involved.
Options with a degree in Modern Languages
- What can I do with my degree in Modern Languages? on Prospects
- What can I do with a Modern Language Degree? on Target Connect
- Chartered Institute of Linguists
- Language Show Live An annual event held in London each October, which includes a programme of seminars and a Career Zone
- Routes Into Languages includes a series of webinars on employability for language students
- Global Graduates Study and Work Abroad: Advice, answers and opportunities for young people with global skills
- I want to Work In: an International Organisation
- Developing Your Language Skills – if you want to keep up your language knowledge, or add another language to your skills set, these pages will help