Language skills can lead directly into a career in translating, interpreting or teaching, and are also in demand in areas such as hospitality, law, publishing and business services. Modern languages degrees typically involve spending a year abroad and this can be an opportunity to find work in a field that interests you and gain relevant experience.
Many big graduate employers are multinational organisations and are keen to recruit candidates who are willing to work overseas and can liaise effectively with international colleagues. Studying modern languages is likely to develop interpersonal and communication skills that graduate recruiters value, as well as other key strengths. This guide will help you identify the skills you have to offer and explore a range of graduate career options, as well as setting out the careers modern languages students aspire to and the areas they find work in after graduation.
Skills for your CV
Here are some of the skills you should have acquired:
- communication, including reading, writing and speaking foreign languages
- gathering, assessing and interpreting information
- leading and participating in discussions and groups
- conveying meaning precisely
- responding to others – from discussions in oral classes
- attention to detail
- boost in personal confidence and independence
- listening to other people
- problem solving
Job roles and career areas you could work in
The most obvious career opportunities for languages students and graduates are working as interpreters or translators. Careers in the diplomatic service and telecommunications also often require an aptitude for languages.
Language students’ interest in their degree subject often goes beyond a simple desire to understand the language and includes a passion for foreign cultures as well. This could be a great advantage in the business world. Many blue-chip multinational recruiters want employees who have a global outlook and are sensitive to cultural differences.
The following job roles would enable you to draw on the communication and problem solving skills developed during your studies. Further qualifications or training are likely to be required. Some of these careers would make direct use of your language skills:
- charities administrator
- commissioning editor
- human resources officer
- investment analyst
- logistics/distribution manager
- management accountant
- marketing manager (social media)
- public relations officer
- secondary school teacher
- tourism officer
- tourist information manager
For more information about potential employers and job opportunities, read our advice about using your language skills after graduation.
What do languages graduates go on to do?
Here’s what languages graduates who finished their degrees in 2017 were doing six months after graduating, according to the What do graduates do? report published in 2018.
|Full-time employment in the UK||42.1|
|Part-time employment in the UK||10.7|
|Working and studying||5.5|
Source: What do graduates do? 2018
Key areas of employment for fresh languages graduates
These are the top five areas of work taken up by 2017 languages graduates six months after graduation, according to the 2018 What do graduates do? report.
|Areas of employment||Percentage|
|Marketing, PR and sales professionals||18.3|
|Business, HR and finance professionals||16.0|
|Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff||14.4|
|Clerical, secretarial and numerical clerks||9.9|
Source: What do graduates do? 2018
Which careers attract languages, literature and classics students?
Media and advertising was the most popular career choice for students of languages, literature and classics identified by a 2019 survey of more than 74,000 undergraduates carried out by Trendence UK, a GTI business. More than a tenth (10.6%) of students of languages, literature and classics who participated in the survey said they were interested in this area. The most popular careers for students of languages, literature and classics were as follows:
|Media and advertising||10.6% expressed an interest|
|Charity and not-for-profit||8.6|
|Hospitality, leisure and tourism||7.4|
Source: Graduate Survey 2019
Famous people with languages degrees
An aptitude for languages need not define what you do in your career. Spare a thought for the following famous people, who all studied languages:
- JK Rowling – studied at the University of Exeter, where she was later awarded an honorary degree for her contribution to children’s literature.
- Paula Radcliffe – the long-distance runner has a degree in modern European studies from Loughborough University.
- Julia Donaldson – studied drama and French at the University of Bristol before writing award-winning children’s books such as The Gruffalo.
- Huw Edwards – the presenter of BBC News at Ten studied French at Cardiff University.
- Fiona Bruce – the newsreader and TV presenter read French and Italian at the University of Oxford.