Jobs in French: A Guide to Common Job Names, Formal Titles and Abbreviations
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you “grew up”? And what do you spend your days doing now?
But, could you tell me about all of this in French? Whether you’re discussing childhood dreams, your current 9-5 day job or future aspirations, profession names are going to surface.
Luckily for you, we’re done all the research. This post about professions or emploi ( a job in French) will not only expand your vocabulary but will pair up nicely with a few basic grammar topics, as well as some interesting cultural information.
- How to Ask About Someone’s Job in French
- How to Answer About Your Job in French
- French Grammar Rules Involving Professions
- Abbreviations for Certain French Job Titles
- The Debate over Job Title Feminization in French
- Formal and Courtesy Titles for French Professions
- Names of Common Jobs in French
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How to Ask About Someone’s Job in French
First things first, let’s cover a few useful basics for talking about jobs in French.
- The verb travailler means “to work.” It’s conjugated using regular first group conjugation.
It’s also the root for the noun un travail (a job) and le travail (work).
- You may also want to use the words un poste (a position) to describe a specific job or placement:
Un poste vient de se libérer à la Poste. (A job just became available at the post office.)
- You can use une carrière to talk about a career.
Once you have learned these terms, the most important question you’ll ask someone about their job is:
- Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ? (Literally: “What do you do in life?”)
Some other common questions could include:
- Aimez-vous votre emploi? (Do you enjoy your job?)
- Comment était ta journée de travail? (How was your workday?)
- Quel est le travail de tes rêves? (What is your dream job?)
- Avez-vous exercé d’autres métiers au cours de votre carrière? (Have you had other jobs during your career?)
When it comes to sharing your work day with someone else, there are some important factors that come into the conversation.
Unlike some Western cultures, the French approach the topic of work a little bit differently.
Here are some points to remember when asking questions:
- Most French workers don’t define themselves by their profession
- French coworkers don’t share personal information with coworkers immediately after they meet
- French workers take more vacation time and longer lunch breaks or une pause café (a coffee break)
- French workers are more inclined to give direct negative feedback and honest opinions
- French workers view workplace confrontation and debate as healthy
- Meetings in France tend to last longer, involving more discussions
How to Answer About Your Job in French
As mentioned above, if someone makes a pointed remark or criticism, don’t take it too personally. And don’t let your emotions get the better of you—and always maintain respect for others. While it’s acceptable to show emotions, raising your voice in a meeting to express disapproval or anger very rarely happens.
As such, keep your cool if your job is getting the better of you!
Here are some lines to keep handy for your next conversation about work:
- Ma journée se passe bien. J’apprends beaucoup sur le tas. (My day is going well. I am learning a lot on the job.)
- Il y a beaucoup à apprendre pour ce nouveau poste. (There is a lot to learn for this new position.)
- Aujourd’hui était une mauvaise journée au travail. (Today was a bad day at work.)
- J’ai passé une bonne journée aujourd’hui au travail. (I had a good day today at work.)
- Nous sommes confrontés à un défi à mon travail. (We are facing a challenge at my job.)
- J’aime beaucoup mes collègues et mon équipe. (I am very fond of my colleagues and team.)
- Je n’ai pas d’expérience là-dedans. Mais, je suis prêt à apprendre. (I don’t have experience in that. But, I am willing to learn.)
Folllow this sample conversation you might have with a friend:
Marie: Comment s’est passé ta journée au travail?
(How was your day at work?)
Jean: Ça va. J’ai eu une réunion très importante avec un client.
(It was fine. I had a very important meeting today with a client.)
Marie: Ça s’est bien passé?
(Did it go well?)
Jean: Oui… sauf que l’imprimante a cessé de fonctionner au moment où je voulais imprimer le devis!
(Yes… except that the printer stopped working just as I was going to print the estimate!)
Marie: Quel dommage ! Qu’est-ce que tu as fait?
(Oh no! What did you do?)
Jean: Heureusement, notre informaticien est mon ami. Il a résolu le problème très rapidement, et j’ai signé le client!
(Luckily, our IT guy is my friend. He fixed the problem quickly, and I signed the client!)
Marie: Félicitations ! Il faut que l’on fête ça!
(Congratulations! We need to celebrate!)
French Grammar Rules Involving Professions
Memorizing job titles isn’t too difficult, but you also need to know how to use them! You won’t need to look far, though, because all of the relevant topics are below.
Use of definite and indefinite articles when describing jobs
If I’m asked specifically what someone’s job is, I’d say “Il/elle est médecin” if he or she is a doctor. Literally this translates to “He/she is doctor.” Notice there’s no indefinite article un (a) like we use in English. So, the structure is:
[Subject] + [conjugated form of être] + [profession].
That means we can use this same structure in different tenses:
Il était médecin.
(He was a doctor.)
Il va être médecin.
(He’s going to be a doctor).
Note that you still use definite articles when talking about “the doctor” or “the ~.” I can say “Appelons le médecin” (Let’s call the doctor), for example.
Ce vs. il/elle
I can use ce (this) with a job title if I’m not telling what someone’s profession is. That’s to say, if the question is “Who is that?” (and not “What does that person do?”), you can say “C’est un médecin” (She’s a doctor).
If in doubt, use c’est / ce sont if you’re using an article or determinant of some sort:
C’est mon médecin.
(She’s my doctor.)
C’est un bon médecin.
(She’s a good doctor.)
Otherwise, use il/elle est + [profession].
In the last example above, you’ll notice we do use an indefinite article when there’s an adjective describing the person.
That’s why we’d say “C’est un bon médecin” to communicate that she’s a good doctor.
But did you notice something strange in this example? Why doesn’t the adjective or the job title agree with the gender in this case? Great question! Hang tight, we’ll get there soon.
What one is vs. what one does
In the past three sections, we described job titles based on what someone is: She is a doctor. Equally valid is describing what someone does or makes:
Il fait des tonneaux.
(He makes barrels.)
The above example is just as correct as saying “Il est tonnelier” (He’s a barrel maker). So to describe what someone does, it’s:
[Subject] + [conjugated form of faire] + [description].
Number and gender rules
Usually pluralizing job titles is as simple as adding an “s”:
médecin → médecins
(as in Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders)
But if the profession includes several words, it’s usually the noun indicating the person that’s pluralized:
femme d’affaires → femmes d’affaires
(businesswoman → businesswomen)
femme au foyer → femmes au foyer
(homemaker → homemakers)
Abbreviations for Certain French Job Titles
The French love abbreviations and acronyms, especially with job titles. Here are a few:
PDG = Président-directeur général (CEO)
AS = Aide-soignant(e) (Nursing assistant, home health aide, etc.)
CO = Conseiller/conseillière d’orientation (School counselor)
TS = Travailleur/travailleuse social(e) (Social worker)
Here’s a list of abbreviations for healthcare professions and here’s another for sports and leisure. Note that some abbreviations on these lists are not careers but simply abbreviations related to each profession.
If you’re looking for an acronym in particular, you might try the Code de rédaction interinstitutionnel.
The Debate over Job Title Feminization in French
In France, equality is sometimes at odds with grammar (especially as defined by the Académie française !). A debate exists over whether traditionally male job titles, like président (president), médecin or professeur (professor), should be given feminine variants.
In Quebec and Belgium, gender-inclusive titles are common and are usually made by adding an “e” onto the end.
agent → agente
For other endings, different conventions are used:
Professions ending in -eur have feminine forms ending in –trice, –eure or –euse.
directeur → directrice
(director, company not film)
travailleur → travailleuse
docteur → docteure
In the case of –eur, you just have to memorize the transformation.
Professions ending in -ier have feminine forms ending in –ière.
ouvrier → ouvrière
infirmier → infirmière
couturier → couturière
Some words, especially those ending in “e,” use the same word for both genders.
Mostly in Belgium and Quebec, if the profession title doesn’t change, the article still changes, so le dentiste becomes la dentiste.
Cultural note: Most job titles technically have a masculine and feminine form, for example, un professeur/une professeure.
However, in France, it’s fairly rare to feminize most job titles. A few exceptions are jobs that are traditionally associated with women, such as un maître/une maîtresse (schoolteacher) or un infirmier/une infirmière (nurse). A few others that are often feminized include un serveur/une serveuse (waiter/waitress) and un vendeur/une vendeuse (salesperson).
In Quebec, it’s much more common to feminize all job titles, e.g., a female professor will be known as une professeure.
(This is, of course, a generalization: Some female professionals in France prefer to use the feminized version of their job title.)
Formal and Courtesy Titles for French Professions
Certain job titles carry enough clout in France to merit courtesy titles or specific abbreviations. Take a look at the following jobs and their titles (in bold):
Médecin (doctor) — docteur
Avocat/Avocate (lawyer) — maître
Prêtre (priest) — curé/ abbé
Professeur (professor) — prof
Diplomate (diplomat) — Excellence
Evêque (bishop) — Excellence
To use these formally, le often precedes the title. For example:
Voici mon médecin militaire, le docteur McCoy.
(This is my medical officer, Dr. McCoy.)
Similarly, if addressing someone in a position of authority, such as a judge, it’s polite to say:
“Monsieur le juge, …”
These formalities, despite showing a polished French, are optional.
Similarly, courtesy titles are often abbreviated:
Docteur — Dr/Drs
Maître — Me/Mes
Professeur — Pr/Prs
Monseigneur — Mgr (Monsignor)
Lieutenant — Lt (Lieutenant)
Capitaine — Cne (Captain)
Général — Gal (General)
Colonel — Cel (Colonel)
Commandant — Cdt (Commander)
Maréchal — Mal (Marshall)
Son Excellence — S.E. (His excellence)
Prêtre/Père — P. (Priest)
Saint — St/Ste (Saint)
Names of Common Jobs in French
In the case that you’re being asked the question, simply respond with “Je suis…” (I am) and then pick your job from the list below!
Science and Medical Field
- Scientifique — Scientist
- Médecin — Doctor
- Chercheur — Researcher
- Infirmier / Infirmière — Nurse
- Thérapeute — Therapist
- Professionnel de la santé — Medical professional
- Psychologue — Psychologist
- Astronaute — Astronaut
- Informaticien / Informaticienne — Computer scientist
- Physicien / Physicienne — Physicist
- Comptable — Accountant
- Expert-comptable / Experte-comptable — CPA / Chartered accountant
- Vendeur — Salesperson
- Commercial — Sales rep
- Agent immobilier / Agente immobiler —Real estate agent
- Agent de change — Stockbroker
- Marchand / Marchande — Merchant
- Écrivain — Writer
- Journaliste — Journalist
- Artiste — Artist
- Designer graphique — Graphic designer
- Esthéticien / Esthéticienne — Beautician
- Dessinateur / Dessinatrice — Designer
- Romancier / Romancière — Novelist
- Peintre — Painter
Hospitality, Food and Entertainment Industry
- Interprète — Performer
- Serveur / Serveuse — Waiter / Waitress
- Caissier / Caissière — Cashier
- Gérant / Gérante — Manager
- Informaticien — IT professional
- Avocat — Lawyer
- Pilote — Pilot
- Maçon — Mason
- Architecte — Architect
- Assistant personnel — Personal assistant
- Entraîneur personnel — Personal trainer
- Architecte — Architect
- Pompier / Pompière — Firefighter
- Soldat — Soldier
- Politician / Politicienne — Politician
Trade and Home Industry
- Femme au foyer — Housewife
- Ménager / Ménagère — Homemaker
- Charpentier / Charpentière — Carpenter
- Mécanicien / Mécanicienne — Mechanic
- Plombier / Plombière — Plumber
- Électricien / Électricienne — Electrician
- Nettoyeur / Nettoyeuse — Cleaner
While it’s generally true that French nouns are never without their articles, in this context, you can just say the noun, i.e., “Je suis professeur.”
Legally Restricted Titles
Much like elsewhere, certain job titles can only be used after fulfilling education requirements, work experience/apprentice requirements, or both.
For example, in France anyone can use the title ingénieur (engineer) but only people who have graduated from accredited engineering schools can call themselves ingénieur diplomé (degreed engineer). Other regulated, or “protected” titles include:
And many others.
More Common Job Titles
Lists of jobs are found all over the web, such as the complicated vocab found here. Some example vocabulary, in no particular order:
Some Typically French Professions
Nothing about these jobs is uniquely French. Are there any jobs that exist in France but not in English-speaking countries, though? Well, yes and no. Any job in France can be found in the United States, for example, but there are some jobs that are very culturally significant in France.
Walk through any French village, for instance, and you’ll see signs proudly proclaiming:
- Pâtissier / Pâtissière (Pastry chef)
- Charcutier / Charcutière (Pork butcher)
- Brasseur / Brasseuse (Brewer)
- Boulanger / Boulangère (Baker)
- Boucher / Bouchère (Butcher)
- Coiffeur / Coiffeuse (Hairdresser)
- Instituteur / Institutrice , Professeur — Teacher / Professor (Teaches at the French equivalents of middle school, high school or college)
- Instituteur / Maître / Professeur des écoles — Teacher (Teaches elementary age children)
- Enseignant — To teach (used to describe anyone who teaches at any level.)
- Ingénieur — Engineer
- Géomètre-expert — Surveyor
- Agriculteur / Agricultrice — Farmer
- Fonctionnaire — Public sector worker
Learning professions and French job titles not only augments your vocabulary considerably, but it also opens a window to France itself. Keep on interacting with jobs in French to humanize your language learning and to connect French to real life!
As you continue learning about le travail while advancing your French studies, keep track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning with FluentU. It is a language learning program based on authentic video content, that allows you to learn in context with interactive subtitles and other great learning resources.
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