Careers and Employability Service

Language Careers

Job roles


Language careers are open to students who have studied languages single honours or combined and to fluent speakers of other languages from any discipline.
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 [6] 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 [15] 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. See our Teaching pages

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. Lingo24have created a career guide to translation [18]

PROFILE: Translator

INVOLVES: Translating documents from a foreign language into your mother-tongue. These may be scientific/technical (e.g. patents, instruction manuals), legal, financial, commercial & occasionally literary. 
EMPLOYERS: International organisations; multinational companies; translation agencies; Government bodies. Many translators are self-employed 
RELATED JOBS: interpreter; teacher of English as a foreign language; modern languages teacher; bilingual secretary. 
SATISFACTIONS: Using languages; flexibility; independence 
NEGATIVES: Work alone - may feel isolated. Working under pressure to meet deadlines. For freelance translators: uncertainty; no regular work pattern; no guaranteed salary. 
SKILLS: written communication, using languages, analysing, using computers. 
ADVANCEMENT: Career progression may be by developing knowledge of further languages or areas of expertise. Setting up own translation agency. 
DEGREE: A degree in languages (single or joint honours) will be required unless you are bilingual or fluent in a second language. A language combined with another relevant subject, such as science, engineering, law or business would be particularly useful. Languages other than mainstream European ones also an advantage. 
POSTGRADUATE STUDY: MA or postgraduate diploma courses in translation very useful. 
TIPS: Experience living/working overseas, or in a relevant business sector useful


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.

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
  • 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 Advertising and PR
  • Transport, Tourism and Leisure – freight distribution, air and sea transport, hotel management, travel agency work, courier/tour guide Transport and Tourism
  • Public Sector – the Civil Service (including the Diplomatic 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 

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





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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7ND, T: +44 (0)1227 764000 ext. 3299

Last Updated: 29/01/2021