Language skills are valuable in today’s world where a global mindset is highly prized. Learn more about the diverse career options that linguists enter from translation to marketing.
James Hewlett, Associate Senior Translator, SDL plc
James talks about the things you need to consider if you want to pursue a career in translating, what roles are available and what he thinks will be the biggest challenges for the future of the industry.
Some of the big developments that will be taking place in the industry will be the growth of different types of digital content.
What skills will I gain during my degree?
Students with languages often underestimate the broad range of skills they acquire and develop during their studies. You will be able to:
- read, speak, write and understand one or more foreign languages
- lead and participate in discussion and presentations
- show a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
- demonstrate adaptability, flexibility and cultural awareness, particularly through the time spent abroad
- evidence strong oral and written communication skills
Being competent in at least one other language aside, these are skills that are extremely transferable to a very wide range of careers and sectors.
In addition, many employers desire candidates with a global or international outlook so language graduates have a lot to offer.
Many language graduates really underestimate the value of their year abroad and therefore don't exploit it to its full potential when applying for jobs. If you would like to discuss how to make the most of your time abroad, get in touch.
What are my career options? Includes videos from Nottingham alumni
Did you know that 70% of jobs requiring a degree do not specify a particular subject?
You need to decide whether you want a job where languages are central to the role. These include teaching, translation and interpreting. Even in such careers, having the language skill alone is not the only factor, as each of these requires a range of other skills and qualities.
Core language skills
Interpreter- job profile
Translator - job profile
Top tips for a career in translation
Berni, from AST Language Services, talks about the things you need to consider if you want to pursue a career in translating.
Find out about Shannon's role as a project manager and Maisie and Ellen's roles as translators. All three work at AST Language Services.
Practically any sector, company and role might require language skills if it is necessary for its operations:
- a logistics and distribution company might require staff with linguistic abilities and cross-cultural skills to deal with international suppliers
- market research or business development consultancies might have international clients or analyse global campaigns
- a global fashion retailer might need people to speak to customers or other businesses in other countries
The language recruitment agencies below have vacancies like these. Bear in mind though that language skills will seldom suffice by themselves; they are usually required together with sector or role-related competencies. In other cases, they might be desirable rather than essential.
It is worth noting that even if you aren’t using the target language, a role or company might want someone who has an understanding of different cultures or who has lived elsewhere to help them understand different customs and practice (both within Europe and beyond), without necessarily the need to speak a foreign language regularly. This is where the breadth of your degree comes in, especially your time abroad where you might have been surprised by small but significant differences.
What else can I do?
As mentioned earlier, 70% of jobs requiring a degree is open to any discipline, so try researching different areas.
Recent language graduates have gone into roles as diverse as:
- marketing, advertising and PR
- Civil Service
- teaching, and
- other education-related roles
Research graduate job roles
Another way to immerse yourself in a foreign language is obviously to live in the target country - visit our working abroad pages. Many people start this process by teaching English abroad.
Teaching English as a foreign language
It is true to say that many graduates of modern languages (and other subjects) take some time building their career through a series of roles to get to a specific career where they want to be or even to decide what job suits them.
This could be due to a variety of reasons, for example:
- they want to try out different job roles and sectors
- the sector they want to enter requires an entry-level position (for example: heritage, media roles and publishing)
- they are saving up to fund a postgraduate course or travel and therefore their first destination is a stopgap
How can I build my skills and experience?
Work experience and volunteering
Depending on what area of work or role you might be interested in, and where, there will be specific strategies, from speculative applications to formal processes you need to be familiar with.
Work experience - what, how and when
The School offers a range of placements to CLAS students through an Nottingham Advantage Award module (see below) and within the curriculum.
Nottingham Internship Scheme
We work closely with a huge variety of local and national businesses to bring you an exciting range of internship opportunities, for both current students and recent graduates.
Nottingham Consultancy Challenge
The Nottingham Consultancy Challenge offers the chance for you to gain hands-on experience of managing a short term project for a local business or charity as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
Nottingham Advantage Award
The Nottingham Advantage Award offers interesting extracurricular modules to develop and reflect on your employability. With over more than 200 modules across our three campus in the UK, China and Malaysia.
There are CLAS-specific modules such as Careers for Linguists and the CLAS placements module.
Advice from Nottingham alumni
With our Careers Mentoring programme, you can receive invaluable support from an alumnus while considering your career options. Choose a mentor in the career area that interests you and get a real insight into the sector.
The Students’ Union offers a wide range of volunteering options both locally and internationally which you can fit around your studies.
Alternatively you could get involved in a society or sports club - there's so many, you're bound to find one that interests you!
Students in Classrooms
There are three initiatives which will give you the opportunity to work in a local educational setting. These initiatives support the academic attainment and raise the aspirations of primary and secondary pupils, whilst developing the skills and employability of those involved.
These are excellent opportunities for students considering teaching, youth work or community engagement as a career.
Exchange programmes overseas
Undertake an exchange semester in another country and broaden your horizons. Talk to your tutors and find out more about the programmes available from the International Office.
Optional placement year
You can now undertake an optional placement year as part of your degree at the end of your penultimate year of study. The placement can be aligned to your degree discipline or related to your career aspirations. Speak to a career adviser or your school for more information.
If you are no longer at Nottingham, you can access work and volunteering opportunities at home. Depending on your location and what you want to do, your strategy may vary so come and speak to us or arrange a telephone appointment.
How can I enhance my digital skills?
Digital skills are essential in many career fields, including advertising, publishing, marketing, and general commerce. They range from social media to coding and will definitely enhance your employability. There are various ways to develop your digital skills whilst at university.
How can I practise psychometric tests?
Many graduate recruiters use psychometric tests during the recruitment and selection process.They are common across all sectors and career fields. Practise will really help your performance.
Language recruitment agencies
These agencies specialise in a range of sectors/roles such as: personal assistants, sales, finance, transport and customer service.
Language specific resources