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What can I do with my degree?: Modern languages

Language skills are in demand and can be used in almost any career, particularly within businesses that trade internationally

Job options

Jobs directly related to your degree include:

Jobs where your degree would be useful include:

Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here. To find out what jobs would suit you, log in to My Prospects.

Work experience

Most modern language degree programmes offer a year abroad. If you choose to undertake a work placement during this year, try and find one in a career that you are interested in and take the opportunity to develop skills specific to that job, as well as your language skills.

Some graduates wanting a long-term career using a language choose to take on a short-term role, such as teaching English, while living abroad and perfecting their language skills. Other temporary jobs that take you abroad may be helpful, such as those in tourism.

If you wish to move into translating or interpreting you may want to carry out some work on a voluntary basis to build up a portfolio of the experience you have. Joining an agency may be a good idea.

Experience in areas such as administration and IT will also be useful for many jobs that use language skills.

Search for placements and find out more about work experience and internships and self-employment.

Typical employers

Some modern language graduates work on a self-employed basis as interpreters or translators. However, many others choose careers not directly related to their subject but where there is the opportunity to use their language skills, for example working for companies who trade or offer services internationally or to non-English speaking customers and suppliers.

This means that language graduates work for a huge variety of employers and sectors, including:

  • business services;
  • charity work;
  • engineering;
  • media;
  • museums and libraries;
  • public administration;
  • teaching;
  • tourism;
  • transport and logistics.

Find information on employers in leisure, sport and tourism, marketing, advertising and PR, teaching and education and other job sectors.

Skills for your CV

Studying a language clearly makes you a good communicator, both orally and in writing. Additional skills gained through a language degree include the ability to:

  • gather information, assess and interpret it;
  • lead and participate in discussions and groups;
  • organise your workload and work to deadlines;
  • develop opinions and propose ideas;
  • read pages of text and pick out the essential points.

Spending a year abroad during your degree helps you develop cultural awareness, adapt to new and changing surroundings and to work both in a team and independently.

These skills have value in a job market that is becoming increasingly global and are appreciated by employers, whatever career you go into.

Further study

Some modern language graduates decide to pursue further study in order to gain a postgraduate qualification in interpreting or translating. This can help with competition for jobs and demonstrates a certain level of professional expertise.

You can choose to specialise in an area of language study that interested you during your undergraduate degree, for example European studies.

Some graduates choose to study abroad in order to increase their chances of getting an international career.

As modern language graduates pursue a range of careers, further study or training in subjects such as marketing, finance, business, IT and journalism are popular, and for some careers, such as law and teaching, postgraduate qualifications are essential.

For more information on further study and to find a course that interests you, see Masters degrees and search postgraduate courses.

What do modern language graduates do?

Almost two-thirds of modern languages graduates enter employment within six months of graduation. Popular areas of work include translating, writing, advertising and marketing, personnel and HR, sales accounts and business development management, business sales, and finance and investment analysis and advice.

Just under a quarter of modern language graduates go on to further study or combine work with further study. Some specialise in a particular area of language, such as translation or interpreting, while others take the opportunity to broaden their options and move into other career areas.

Graduate destinations for modern languages
Destinations Percentage
Employed 62.3%
Further study 17.7%
Working and studying 5.8%
Unemployed 6.8%
Other 7.4%
Types of work entered in the UK
Marketing, PR and sales 18.6%
Business, HR and financial 16.1%
Retail, catering and bar work 13.6%
Secretarial and numerical clerks 13.0%
Other 38.7%

For a detailed breakdown of what language graduates are doing six months after graduation, see What Do Graduates Do?  

Graduate destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Written by AGCAS editors
July 2015

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