6 Jobs That Require a Second Language

Whether you’re looking for full-time work or a way to make money on the side, there are often a good number of jobs for language majors or anyone fluent in more than one language.

Here are six different jobs that can require knowledge of a second language.


How Do Second Language Learners Fare in the Workforce?

There’s an increasing demand for bilingual workers. New American Economy reports that demand for bilingual workers more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. That’s a lot of new jobs that need qualified bilingual (or multilingual) candidates.

According to the Chicago Tribune, foreign-language careers are on the rise in a number of different fields. These fields include finance, healthcare, social services, information technology and more, so learning a second language can increase your employability in many fields.

Additionally, bilingual workers often earn more than their monolingual counterparts. AOL Finance reports that bilingual workers earn between 5% and 20% more than the base rate per hour. That means a position that would ordinarily pay $12 per hour might pay bilingual workers $12.60 to $14.40 per hour.

6 Dream Jobs That Require You Know a Second Language

International Sales Manager

In any sector that produces goods, you’re likely to find international sales positions. Many international sales positions focus on B2B sales, which means “business to business.” Businesses often sell their products to other businesses, and while these negotiations are often considered more complex, they can also be tremendously satisfying for a skilled negotiator. Plus, they often pay more due to the perceived difficulty.

International sales positions may require traveling abroad or negotiating from a local office. Regardless of where you work, international sales positions often require language skills and enough cultural competency to avoid offending.

To pursue a career in international sales, it’s helpful to have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and/or experience in sales. Speaking one or more world languages is also important, particularly for specialized fields with strong regional ties.

For instance, if you want to go into ginseng sales, you’ll undoubtedly need to know Chinese. In general, Chinese is useful for anyone looking to go into international sales since China is a huge market with a lot of spending power.

While salaries can vary wildly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that sales managers make a median salary of $117,960 per year.

Study Abroad Coordinator

If you’re passionate about the educational power of travel, a job as a study abroad coordinator could be for you.

These coordinators serve as a university’s go-to person for study abroad opportunities. As such, they promote study abroad programs, provide students with information, consult with students on how the study abroad opportunity fits into their education, prepare students for travel and monitor international safety issues. They also handle administrative tasks associated with study abroad programs.

Study abroad coordinators are usually expected to have traveled abroad themselves. In addition to language skills, they may often have master’s or doctoral degrees in related fields like business administration and/or student affairs.

The most useful languages to speak are from countries that are likely to host study abroad programs. Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Chinese are some of the most frequently spoken languages in study abroad programs, so learning any of these languages can be useful.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for postsecondary education administrators is $90,760, though this varies based on rank, region and school.

Foreign Service Officer

If you want to use your language skills while representing your country abroad, a career as a foreign service officer might be for you.

Foreign service officers serve as representatives of their home nation in countries throughout the world. Depending on their career track, they might help Americans abroad, protect American borders, work to negotiate with foreign governments, manage embassy operations, promote mutual understanding and more. If you’re U.S. based, you can find more information on foreign service career tracks from the U.S. Department of State.

Skill and experience requirements vary by position, but due to the international nature of the positions, language skills are always useful. Since foreign service officers are stationed all over the world, any language may be useful. Widely spoken languages like Chinese, Spanish, French and Arabic will provide you with more flexibility, though learning an uncommon language can set you apart from other candidates.

Pay scales vary based on position and location.

International Development Program Officer

International development jobs focus on helping communities across the world. This may involve addressing issues like health, clean water, economic development, energy, the environment and more.

Both governmental and non-governmental organizations employ program officers to oversee international development programs.

Technical-oriented positions may require exceptional technical expertise, while other positions require more administrative skills. Since international development workers often work abroad, it’s important that they have enough language skills to interact with locals. Other relevant areas of study might include healthcare, economics and international development.

Devex provides job listings in the international development field that you apply for or use to plot your career path.

The language skills you need are based largely on what region you’ll focus on. Since Spanish and French are spoken in many countries around the world (if not as a first language, as a common second language), these are particularly useful. Learning a more specific regional language can help provide additional direction for your career path.

Foreign Correspondent

International journalists and foreign correspondents travel throughout the world to cover breaking news stories. They’re often in the field for major disasters, including extreme weather and armed conflict. This makes it an appealing career for adrenaline junkies.

Knowing additional languages is a valuable skill for foreign correspondents since it allows them to interview people in their native languages. Additionally, those seeking these jobs usually need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Journalism and communication are popular majors, though journalists covering more specialized fields may benefit from studying political science, economics and/or law.

The languages most in demand depend on what region you’re covering and where news is happening. Since international correspondents often focus on conflict regions, learning the languages of these regions is particularly useful.

For instance, since much news coverage focuses on the Middle East, Russia and North Korea, languages that are currently useful include Arabic, Russian and Korean. The news is constantly changing, though, so this can turn on a dime.

Intelligence Operative

Being an intelligence operative doesn’t necessarily involve sneaking into parties to follow around shady characters. It might involve field work, but there are also many positions in analysis, STEM and support.

If you’re based in the US, the CIA website offers a helpful breakdown of job categories.

While there are foreign language roles that focus predominantly on language skills, these skills are useful for any intelligence position. Most CIA positions require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a strong GPA and necessary skills often include analytical abilities. Each individual position also has additional education and experience requirements, so if this is a field you’re interested in, it will be beneficial to look at specific job requirements before proceeding.

The U.S. has identified a number of languages that are particularly needed for national security, so you might consider studying these critical languages if you’re looking for a position in intelligence.

Pay grades vary by rank and position, but salaries start around $50,000 and go up to over $100,000.


So, are any of the above careers for you?

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