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Don't Want to be a Translator? Other Jobs You Can Do with a Languages Degree

15th June 2016 Posted by: Holly Smith

FOREIGN language degrees are probably one of the broadest and most useful degrees you can do at university. Classes range from the political instability in South America to rap music in the French suburbs, with a bit of German philosophy thrown in for good measure. You also get the chance to spend a year gaining valuable experience abroad, whether you choose to study at a partner university or work in any field you want. It’s well rounded degree that could take you absolutely anywhere.

And yet, does your stomach still turn at that question which family and friends always ask? Why is it that people always think languages students only want to become translators or teachers? If you’ve reached the point where you’re starting to feel unsure about your future, then check out these other jobs you can do with a languages degree.

Civil and Secret Services

Remember when you were a child and wanted more than anything to be like James Bond? With a languages degree you are on the right path to fulfil this dream. The UK’s FCO, MI5 and MI6 look favourably on candidates with not only the ability to speak more than one language, but who also can provide an international perspective. After spending a year abroad as part of your degree, you already have a foot in the door; all you need to do is prove those skills and you might stand out from candidates with other degrees. Foreign and Commonwealth employees even have to take a language aptitude test before they join meaning that you’ll definitely be one step ahead. For more information, check out this article published by The Independent about using your language degree in the secret service.


No matter what kind of journalism appeals to you, the knowledge of a foreign language is a valuable skill to have - the best, some even say. You’ve had four years to perfect and hone in on your communication skills in each of your languages, native or otherwise, and you have probably become a master at oral exams. Journalism is all about writing clearly and communicating effectively, two skills that your languages degree has prepared you for extremely well. Not only that, but you’ll probably have some knowledge about foreign countries and cultures that other journalists don’t have, meaning that you could be the one chosen to break international stories.

International Aid

It’s almost a dream job: developing life changing projects, supporting those in need and travelling around the world making it a better place, all whilst earning a great salary. However, it is a challenging career where no two days are ever the same. Organizations such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Red Cross look favourably on candidates with knowledge of a foreign language, especially languages used in third world countries such as French, Spanish and Portuguese. You don’t have to necessarily work as an interpreter, but you will be able to build a better relationship with the people you are helping.

Banking and Finance

There are a surprising amount of skills that can transfer from a languages degree to a career in finance. For example, the hours you put in to learning grammatical structures, where a single extra letter can change the whole meaning of the sentence, are not wasted; it somehow ingrains the importance of small details in your mind. This is one of the most important things that large finance and banking firms look for in their employees. While you also may end up working in an English-speaking environment, the big firms generally have branches overseas, meaning that meetings and forming relationships with clients can be much easier if you speak their native language. Salaries additionally are a little nicer if you have knowledge of a foreign language, companies might give you around a 4% wage increase if you can speak German, for example.


You will need to do a conversion course in the UK if you plan to be the next leading international crime lawyer, but it is possible, and with previous language skills you have the ability to go far in many areas of the law. Patricio Grané Labat, partner of public international law firm Volterra Fietta,  says in an interview with the Guardian “The globalisation of legal practice means that many international law firms will not hire lawyers without language skills.” And it’s not just international law that you can break into: many former language students have gone on to become great criminal lawyers and environmental lawyers too. The communication skills you learn during your undergraduate degree will be useful when pursuing a legal career. While it may take an extra year to be qualified, it might be worth it if you’re interested in using law to make a difference in the world. 

So, those are some of the other jobs you can do with a languages degree - which will you choose? Let us know on Twitter.



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