What Jobs Can I Get with a Foreign Language Degree?

A foreign language degree can take you to many places, both figuratively and literally. Find out more about your career options, additional training requirements, salaries and job growth. Schools offering Spanish degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Options at a Glance

A degree in a foreign language can open many doors, whether you wish to remain in your home country or work abroad. Potential careers include translation and interpreting, language teaching, or even working as a foreign correspondent. Find out more details in the table below.

Interpreter/Translator Language Instructor Foreign Correspondent
Degree required Bachelor's degree Master's degree (for postsecondary) Bachelor's degree
Education Fields of Study Languages Languages; education (for middle and secondary) Journalism; communications
Licensure or Certification Optional State teaching license for middle and secondary None
Training required Varies by employer Varies by employer Internship, fellowship
Job Growth (2016-2026) 18%* 12% (foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary* -9% (reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $49,930* $67,640 (foreign language and literature teachers, postsecondary)* $43,490 (reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Career Choices Do Foreign Language Graduates Have?

With a foreign language degree, you can become a translator or interpreter, doing general translation or interpretation, or specializing in areas such as legal, medical, or business translation or interpretation. Translators and interpreters can work for private agencies, but also for the non-profit sector or government, courts and immigration services.

Further, your degree could see you become a language instructor, either teaching English as a second language abroad, or instructing students in the foreign language in which you completed your degree. If contact with a variety of people as well as working abroad are high on your list, teaching could be a good option for you.

Media organizations also employ foreign language graduates, especially international news organizations that seek foreign correspondents with the required language skills to work in a specific country. Some global news services want bilingual reporters to cover local stories for target audiences in various countries.

What Certifications Do I Need?

Translators and interpreters have the option to pass tests in order to become certified in their profession. The American Translator's Association (ATA) offers translator certifications, and the U.S. Department of State offers certification tests for interpreters or translators.

To become a foreign language instructor, additional certification requirements vary depending on the U.S. state or the country, level of teaching, and educational institution in which you wish to teach. Foreign correspondents don't need specific certification, but can apply for membership with various professional organizations.

Do I Need Additional Experience or Training?

Translators and interpreters may need to prove their proficiency in order to become employed and are often also expected to fulfill ongoing training requirements. Those seeking to work in specialized areas, such as court interpreting or medical translations, often receive specific on-the-job training.

Training requirements for language instructors will vary by employer. Some employers expect a certain amount of experience before considering candidates, while others want to train new staff in their internal teaching methods.

Foreign correspondent jobs may be some of the most sought-after in the industry and therefore very competitive. The best way to get a foot in the door is to seek an internship or fellowship with a media organization and then gain experience as an entry-level reporter.

In What Other Areas Can I Work?

A foreign language degree does not limit you to the career options described above. Many other sectors also seek applicants with language skills. Companies working in import and export need staff that can communicate with business partners in other countries, while international marketing firms need employees who can accurately and engagingly write slogans and copy in many languages.

Depending on the language you have studied, you could also work for international aid organizations, the non-profit sector, or even government departments such as immigration services. Of course, if you have itchy feet, the tourism industry also seeks applicants with foreign language skills.

What Income and Job Growth Can I Expect?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary was $49,930 for interpreters and translators in 2018, and $43,490 a year for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts. The BLS reported a median salary of $67,640 for postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers in 2018.

Demand for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts is expected to see a 9% decline between 2016 and 2026 due to consolidation in the media industry. Meanwhile demand for translators and interpreters is forecast to rise by 18%, according to the BLS. During that same period, the BLS predicted that postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers could expect a 12% expansion of employment possibilities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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