Languages and Translation
There are many career options to consider if you would like to use your language skills. These can be broadly categorised into jobs that directly involve the use of languages, and those where languages are important, but are not the key focus of a role.
Although there are many occupations where languages are useful, there are only a few where they are essential. Working as a translator or an interpreter are well known options and usually require a relevant postgraduate qualification. Teaching languages in schools and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) are also possibilities. To find out more about these roles visit our Education and Teaching sector page.
Although all sectors need language speakers, there are some where knowledge of foreign languages tends to be more advantageous. These include customer service, travel and tourism, shipping and logistics, international marketing, and some areas of law and finance. Languages can also be vital in areas of the public sector such as security, armed services, Civil Service and European Union.
Career Zone Employability Schemes
These employability schemes can help increase your work experience and networks in this area:
- Career Zone Internship schemes - internships can be extremely useful, so try and get relevant vacation work or placements.
- Ask An Alum - a fuss-free way to connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask careers questions.
- Career Mentor Scheme - a popular employability scheme which matches a student or graduate with an experienced professional, for sector insight and one-to-one careers advice and guidance, over a 6-month period.
- Professional Pathways - a suite of sector specific training courses and paid week-long internships that take place in June. There is a specific pathway related to International Trade which may be of interest to language speakers looking to work internationally or for an international organisation.
Watch the following videos to get a feel for some of the roles within the sector:
- How languages help in your career - video highlighting how languages can open doors to various careers.
- Language Launchpad - features language graduates explaining how their language skills have benefitted their careers.
- Modern Languages - videos featuring individuals in a range of careers who have either studied languages or use languages in their roles.
- Routes Into Languages - includes a series of webinars exploring the key skills developed through learning languages and the career options open to language graduates.
If you would like to do further research into this sector, the following webpages may be useful:
- What can I do with my Modern Languages degree? - view graduate destinations for Modern Languages and Cultures graduates from the University of Exeter.
- Global Graduates - information and advice on study abroad opportunities, work placements, volunteering, languages and international jobs.
- Working abroad - find out about visas, language requirements, and where to look for jobs abroad.
- Language Show Live - annual event held in London each autumn.
- Prospects: Translator profile and Interpreter profile - these job profiles cover key responsibilities, necessary qualifications and skills, how to find relevant work experience and career prospects.
- Your Career in Translation - blog post featuring alumnus Anam Zafar (BA French and Arabic, 2018) who now works in translation
- A career in translation and interpreting - informative page from the Institute of Translating and Interpreting.
- National Network for Interpreting - information on interpreting, the skills involved, and how to go about pursuing an interpreting career.
- Foreign Language Centre at the University of Exeter - a great place to learn a language, whether for study, work or just for fun. Offers credit-bearing modules for undergraduates and evening language courses.
Use the LinkedIn Alumni tool to search Exeter alumni working in your sector or country of interest, as well as those that have studied languages.
Internships and work experience will enhance your chances of employment. If you are unsure of the exact area you would like to get experience in, you may wish to consider which sectors and/or employers would value your language skills. There are plenty to choose from, including international sales and marketing, finance, law, transport and logistics and food and drink to name but a few. Find where internships are advertised in those sectors by visiting the relevant sector page or look on the relevant job profile on Prospects. Remember you can also approach organisations speculatively to enquire about work experience opportunities. Use the links listed under ‘Job Vacancies’ to help with this research.
Listed below are a selection of opportunities to live and work abroad, as well as internships that require language skills. Please note this list is not exhaustive.
- British Council - opportunities to study, work or volunteer in another country.
- Language-related internships with the UN - usually last two months and are unpaid.
- EU traineeships - aimed at university graduates. Typically last between 3 and 5 months.
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Internship Programme - open to current students. Must have an excellent command of either English and French and working knowledge of, or willingness to learn the other.
- The World Bank Internship Program - internships for postgraduate students only. Fluency in English is required. Knowledge of languages such as: French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, and Chinese is desirable. Other skills such as computing skills are advantageous.
Beyond advertised internships, there are various ways to gain experience using languages. You could contact local charities and other non-profit organisations that work with non-English speakers to see if your language skills can be of use. Considering joining student societies and groups which focus on nationals from a particular country or language. For Penryn student groups visit The SU’s website . You may be able to use your skills to support events or projects.
Use the websites below to find charities and relevant volunteer opportunities:
- CharityChoice database - browse through over 160,000 charities
- Do-IT and vinspired - volunteering opportunities in your local area
- Translators without Borders - non-profit organisation which offers language and translation support for humanitarian and development agencies; they promote a range of volunteering and other opportunities.
For general information about finding graduate opportunities, please visit our Graduate Jobs page, and for a list of general job search engines please visit our general job sources page. You could also have a look at Handshake, our vacancy database with employers who are targeting University of Exeter students.
The list below includes employers that typically recruit languages graduates and specialist language recruitment agencies/websites. If you are looking for a role that requires language skills, but which sits within a specific sector, such as finance or law, use the job vacancy sites listed on the relevant sector page. It won’t always be apparent from the job title if an employer is looking for a language speaker, so it is advisable to read job adverts and person specifications carefully.
- Reed Languages - probably the most comprehensive source of jobs requiring languages from an agency, includes technical, support staff, marketing, etc. Put the language(s) you wish to use in the keywords search box.
- Help with finding work outside of the UK
- Top Language Jobs - agency with large numbers of jobs at varying levels and salaries
- European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) - database of job opportunities in EU institutions and agencies.
- Civil Service job search - search jobs within the Civil Service and central government organisations.
- Lingua-jobs - specialist job site for language speakers.
- Adzuna - wide range of language-based jobs across the UK.
- Multi-Lingual Vacancies - job site advertising language jobs in the UK and overseas.
- French Selection - recruitment consultancy for German, French, Italian and Spanish speaking positions.
- Capita Translation and Interpreting (Capita TI) - language services provider.
- Prestige Network - language services provider.
- ABL Multilingual Recruitment Agency - multilingual recruitment agency specialising in placing language graduates in a wide variety of language roles.
- Language Matters - language recruitment consultancy.
Speculative applications / Directories
As jobs are not always advertised, it can be useful to develop your networking skills and also apply speculatively. You could use business directories and/or the Global Business Network to find potential organisations to contact.
- The Association of Translation Companies (ATC) Member Directory - search language services providers.
- Publishers Global - lists publishing companies which publish foreign language works.
- Translation Directory - lists translation agencies for many different countries.
- Find-a-Linguist - tool to find professional translators.
Unfortunately, there is no single list of graduate schemes that require language speakers, and most will accept graduates from all degree disciplines. The few that do specifically look for language speakers can be found below, but please note this is not an exhaustive list. To find more schemes use the The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Look for schemes offered by European/global organisations, as these offer a higher chance of being able to use your language skills. Not all will require a second language but many want candidates with a global outlook and may offer opportunities to work abroad in the future.
- EU Traineeships - aimed at university graduates. Typically last between 3 and 5 months.
- GCHQ, Mi6 - Careers, Mi5 - Careers - UK’s security and intelligence agencies.
- Morgan Stanley - fluency in languages other than English is an advantage.
- Civil Service Fast Stream - although not required, language skills may be particularly useful for roles involving embassies and overseas offices.
If you have studied a related degree, check if your course is accredited by one of the professional bodies. Being a member of a professional body is voluntary however, it can be valuable for developing networks, continuing your professional development, and generally keeping up to date with what's happening in the sector.
- Association of Translation Companies (ATC) - represents the interests of language service companies in the UK and internationally.
- Chartered Institute Of Linguists (CIOL) - UK-based professional membership body for language practitioners.
- Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) - dedicated association for practising translation and interpreting professionals.
- International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) - global association of conference interpreters.
- International Federation of Translators (FIT) - international grouping of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists.
- The Translators Association (TA) - provides a source of expert advice for literary translators from the Society of Authors.
The following professional bodies may be worth visiting in order to research roles in organisations where languages may be particularly useful. Many have member directories which you can use for speculative applications and enquiries.
- Association of National Tourist Offices (ANTOR) - principal lobbying organisation for the world's tourist offices.
- Association of Foreign Banks (AFB) - represents interests of non- UK banks which have an office in the UK.
- British International Freight Association (BIFA) - represents freight forwarding firms.
- Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers - shipbrokers primarily sell cargo space and deal with the associated documentation, and so often require language skills.
- Foreign Airlines Association (FAA) - the UK’s leading network association for foreign airline executives.
To find sector-specific professional bodies visit the relevant sector page. If your sector of interest is not listed on this page you may find a professional association related to it on the Directory of the Professions website.
A postgraduate diploma or Masters is usually expected to work as a Translator or Interpreter and will often increase your chances of employment, especially with international organisations. You can study an MA in Translation Studies at the University of Exeter or browse courses at other institutions on the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) website. If you don’t have professional qualifications, you may still find informal work in this field, however rates of pay will be lower than those who are professionally qualified. To learn more about professional development opportunities, review the translator or interpreter job profile.
If you are interested in working in a role where your language skills are important, but not the main focus, you are unlikely to need a specialised postgraduate qualification. You may, however, want to explore courses linked to the role or sector itself. Review the relevant job profile to find out the options available and whether a postgraduate degree is required. These profiles also provide information on professional development opportunities for each role.
If you would like to learn more about postgraduate study, please visit our Postgraduate Study information page for more information.