6 careers for foreign language speakers

By RPCV Careers
Dec. 14, 2015

¿Hablas español? Unazungumza Kiswahili? Parles-tu français? Niak jeh neya phiasaa Khmer te?

There are many benefits of a bilingual brain. For one thing, traveling abroad is easier. But it could also translate (see what we did there?) into a stronger brain and more lifetime earnings.

Since employers value both technical language abilities as well as the cultural understanding of gestures and nonverbal communication, returned Peace Corps Volunteers are in a unique situation to leverage their cultural and language fluency to land a job.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you were required to not only learn a language, but to live it. Employers want – and need – those skills. This type of language competence is a benefit in almost any career path, but here are 6 careers where you can use your foreign language skills every day:

1. Interpretation or Translation - According to the Department of Labor, translators and interpreters are expected to be one of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the nation. If you want the flexibility of working from home or doing freelance work, translating might be the right fit for you. If you’re a people person who wants to travel abroad, interpreting is a good option.

2. Education and Study Abroad – With many parents demanding foreign language instruction from their children’s schools, teaching is a great career option for polyglots. There are also international opportunities to use your language skills as the number of students studying abroad is increasing every year.

3. Conservation – In order to create news stories and reports that compel a community to protect its natural resources, you should probably be writing in that community’s language. The ability to read environmental laws or watch the news in the local language is also important.

4. Diplomacy and International Development – As returned Volunteers know, speaking to people in their own language is especially important when working and building trust in diplomacy and international development. For example, when applying to be a foreign service specialist with the U.S. Department of State, candidates that can successfully pass an oral language assessment can raise their ranking on the list of eligible hires.

5. Tourism and Hospitality – According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, there are more than 70 million foreign visitors to the U.S. each year – a.k.a. huge potential for foreign language speakers! Even better news: between January and August 2015, destinations worldwide received 810 million international tourists, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

6. Business and Marketing – Language skills are increasingly important in a world where goods and services are bought and sold across international borders. A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of companies surveyed missed international business opportunities because of a lack of internationally competent personnel.

Do you work with languages or are you hunting for a language-related job? Share your experiences with us in the comments and visit the RPCV Career Center to find other career resources including jobs and events.