In an increasingly inter-connected world language skills are in demand in a wide range of sectors, particularly in business, teaching, diplomacy, charity and development work and media. As a result, there is a huge variety of employers seeking to recruit language graduates as well as self-employed opportunities as interpreters, translators and tutors.
Where do I start?
When graduating from a Languages degree you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Broadcast journalist
- Digital copywriter
- Diplomatic services operational officer
- Editorial assistant
- English as a foreign Language Teacher
- International aid/Development worker
- Logistics and distribution manager
- Marketing executive
- Publishing copy-editor/Proofreader
- Secondary school teacher
- Tour manager
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in the areas you are interested in and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Prospects – Graduate Prospects guide to options with your subject suggests potential job options, typical employers, work experience opportunities and information on destinations for modern languages graduates.
- Targetjobs – Provides a guide to careers and job roles where you can use your language skills.
- jobs.ac.uk – Provides information on the most common career paths for language graduates.
- lingo24 – Translation industry career guide which includes case studies and useful links.
- aiic – The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) provides information and advice on becoming a conference interpreter.
- ITI – The Institute of Translation and Interpreting is an independent professional association of practising translators and interpreters. It provides information on these services to government, industry, media and the general public and offers advice, membership and development opportunities to those starting out in their translating and interpreting careers as well as those already established.
- europa.eu – The European Personnel Selection Office's guide to careers with the European Union.
- Gala – The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is a global, non-profit trade association for the language industry. They are a membership organisation who offer information, professional development, expert resources, opportunities for collaboration, networking and increased visibility for their members.
Work experience is an excellent opportunity to dip your toe into different sectors and see which ones you enjoy and have a flair for, as well as potentially being the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise, the all-important transferrable skills and to build up a network of contacts for your future career.
However finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations. Please be aware that some of the opportunities overseas may well have a cost involved so it is important that details are checked carefully.
Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer you the opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, team-work and time-management, in adition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year's work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to.
Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty; you should aim to see them and start looking for a placement position early in your second year. Find out how to contact your Placements Office and research general placement opportunity sources by visiting our placements page.
A high number of companies offer internships both within and outside of the UK. The companies and organisations offering internships, listed below, will give you an idea of the opportunities that may be available; you will need to do thorough research to identify further specific opportunities:
- Go Overseas – A website where you can search for an internship, study, volunteer, or teaching position abroad as well as programmes with language schools and for gap years.
- GoinGlobal – Exclusive to Portsmouth students and graduates, this comprehensive website dedicated to working globally offers details of thousands of internships across the globe.
- Aktuel Translations – A technical translation company with bases in the UK, USA and Germany, working with over 400 language combinations.
- British Council – The UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.
- Capita – A translating and interpreting company working with both the commercial and public sectors. They offer a range of internships that utilise language skills including marketing, business development, IT and project management.
- GlobaLexicon – A translation service for global business providing services such as proofreading and editing, coding and voice-over.
- Language Connect – A translation company working with national and international clients across a variety of sectors.
- Rosetta Translation – A worldwide translation company specialising in legal, technical, medical and financial language translations.
- United Nations Language Careers – The UN is one of the largest employers of language professionals offering roles including interpreters, editors, verbatim reporters and terminologists.
- Wolfestone – A global language specialist offering translation, localisation and multimedia services to high profile clients such as NATO and Coca-Cola.
When looking for volunteering opportunities, think about local companies and organisations as well as the larger globally focussed companies, also approach charities and non-governmental organisations who may benefit from your time and skills. The guides Volunteering Experience and International Volunteering contain links to relevant resources. In addition Purple Door offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located at Purple Door. Please be aware that some international volunteering opportunities may have costs attached so it is important to check all details thoroughly. Find out more about how Purple Door can support you with your voluntary work experience.
Create you own work experience
Creating your own experience can be easier than you think, particularly using languages. There are many opportunities on campus, locally and worldwide via the internet, some ideas to consider are as follows:
- The School of Languages and Area Studies run a Global Cafe that meets in Park Building cafe on the ground floor every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30. This is a great place to socialise with other students from a range of countries and offers the opportunity to practice your own language skills as well as supporting others with theirs.
- The Students' Union has many cultural societies that could provide you with valuable language related experience as well as other transferable skills.
- If you are an international student you can work for the International Office as an International Student Ambassador. You will help to support both current and potential international students by answering any questions they have about living and studying in Portsmouth.
- Erasmus is the European Commission's educational programme that enables students to study or gain work experience in a different European country while completing a degree. This can offer an excellent opportunity for students of European languages to gain experience in the relevant country surrounded by native speakers.
- Consider offering your services to local companies or individuals in the form of translation, content writing or tutoring. See our Speculative Applications Guide for information on how to approach enquiring about possible opportunities.
- Find a language buddy or a penpal - FluentU have compiled this handy list of nine penpal websites to help you get started.
- Write a dual language blog exploring world cultures, documenting your travels, your experience of university or any other subject you can imagine.
- Go travelling, explore the country that is home to the language you are studying or broaden your horizons into different countries. You could potentially pick up ad hoc work as you travel or organise some before you leave.
Key considerations before starting your search for work experience
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Think critically about gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed. How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- How much time can you commit to work experience? How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? An organisation working in translating and interpreting or one offering language experience within business, marketing, HR or another discipline? Would you like to stay in the UK or go abroad? Would you prefer to work in the private sector, public sector or for a charity or non-governmental organisation?
Tips to build experience
- Get involved in relevant University or external groups this is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of Faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Finding a job
As previously mentioned, there are many different sectors you can consider when graduating with a languages degree depending on your interests and strengths. Many language graduates work as translators, interpreters or teachers but many also enter jobs not directly related to their degree where their transferable skills, and potentially their language skills, are relevant. These roles may include working for companies or organisations who trade or offer services/assistance internationally.
Employers who recruit languages graduates
- Business services
- Charities and Non-Governmental-Organisations
- Engineering firms
- Media corporations
- Museums and Libraries
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Tourist attractions
- Transport and logistics companies
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- MyCareer – Access the Careers and Employability Service jobs board to search the latest vacancies, save job searches and set up job alerts.
- Prospects – Search for graduate jobs online at the Graduate Prospects website.
- europa.eu – EURES is the European Employment Service with information and advice on job opportunities as well as living and working conditions in the European Economic Area (EEA).
- Europa Pages – International language job centre for language related employment and vacancies, such as teaching, interpreting or translating. There is also a careers' clinic where would-be English teachers can find out the qualifications required and the institutions where they can study.
- Europe Language Jobs – Jobs board specialised in multilingual job vacancies.
- multilingualvacancies.com – Online jobs board solely specialising in advertising language jobs in London, across the UK, Europe and worldwide.
- lingua-jobs – Lingua Jobs is a jobs board specialising in language recruitment targeting jobseekers who are fluent in English along with other languages.
Specialist recruitment agencies
- Appointments Bi-Language
- Corinium Language Associates
- Euro London Appointments
- Europe Language Jobs
- French Selection
- Linguistsapp Direct
Tips for finding a job
- Follow the Law of Attraction - post your CV online and send it out to recruiters. Also, create a LinkedIn profile where you can showcase your skills to employers looking to hire.
- Keep your on line job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- Network – you may or may not like the idea of it but people do talk and someone out there may know of the perfect job for you that hasn't been advertised yet. Many people find jobs through friends, professional contacts and former colleagues.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful Twitter and Facebook feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684