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Languages skills and careers: Career opportunities

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In the UK many graduates enter employment where a degree in any subject would be acceptable. In this instance what they offer the employer is evidence of the range of competencies which have been developed through their academic study, rather than the specific subject content of their degree. This page will focus on careers directly related to languages, including English, however, if you want to explore all of the choices open to you, also refer to Further resources for planning your career.

Given the current economic climate and the increased competition for graduate positions, it is important to consider a varied range of career options. Bear in mind that many careers require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.

Employers in all fields value applicants who can communicate well, analyse, evaluate and present ideas and arguments effectively, such as English Language specialists. These skills can be used in work where research or written communication plays a major part, such as information work, advertising, marketing, journalism, publishing and public relations. Additionally many English Language graduates go into teaching at all levels and some may specialise in teaching English to speakers of other languages or speech and language therapy.

Fluency in additional languages opens up career opportunities internationally as well as in the UK.

Languages may be central to some occupations, such as the diplomatic service, interpreting, translating, journalism, sales, teaching and tourism. In today’s global economy such opportunities are constantly expanding. Other openings may be in the media, the leisure industry, international organisations, business and customer care.

Languages graduates are found in a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies (national and European). We advise you to thoroughly research your career choices as early as possible, particularly in relation to experience required, differences relating to where you live, or where the study choices you make may affect future opportunities.

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2017, Helping the UK Thrive (PDF 1.62 MB) shows that language skills are considered a priority skill by businesses. The major European languages are those most commonly mentioned as being in demand, led by French (51%) and German (47%). (Page 34)

Use the Prospects website to explore career options related to English, Linguistics and Modern Languages where you will find examples of job roles and contacts for further research. You can also refer to the job sectors information for Teaching and Education, Marketing, Advertising and PR; Media and Publishing; and Creative Arts and Culture, which are often popular with English Language students.

ABL is a multilingual recruitment agency specialising in placing language graduates in a wide variety of bi-lingual roles including translation, interpreting, sales and customer service across a wide range of organisations both in the UK and abroad.

If you live in Ireland look at the relevant information on career sectors and jobs with your degree on the Gradireland website.

To find out about ways of gaining experience through volunteering see our voluntary work pages. You can also use the searchable databases on the following web sites:

Postgraduate Study

Many graduates undertake further study on completion of their first degree and/or after gaining some relevant work experience. Reasons for doing so include wanting to explore an aspect of their studies in more depth, to further or change their career, or because a specific postgraduate qualification is either an entry requirement for their chosen career or would be an advantage if entry is competitive.

Generally postgraduate study can open up opportunities to work in higher education and teaching at other levels. For languages graduates it can open up further opportunities in professions related to this area such as speech and language therapy, interpreting, translating, journalism and other media related roles.

The OU offers a Masters Degree in Education with an applied linguistics specialism.

It is important to research further study options comprehensively by exploring the range of postgraduate courses and research opportunities on offer, and funding possibilities to ensure you make the correct choice, for the right reasons and importantly that you can afford it, as funding for postgraduate study is very different to the undergraduate system.

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