Can I get a job if I major or minor in a foreign language?

Yes, of course. First of all, almost any job, even in the United States, can benefit from your knowing another language. More and more of the U.S. population speaks languages other than English, and jobs in social services, business, communications, and the government all use people with language skills. Language skills set you apart from other workers, making you a better candidate for promotion and work on new projects.

Beyond that, there are a huge number of jobs that absolutely require that you speak a second language. These include working in the Foreign Service, serving as a translator and/or interpreter for the government or the private sector, working at international institutions such as the United Nations or UNICEF, teaching foreign languages, literature, and cultures in schools or universities in the United States or abroad, and working for transnational business corporations. 

Below you will find a list of the kinds of jobs people who major or minor in a second language have chosen:

Social services: social worker, probation officer, criminology and law enforcement, school counselor, drug abuse counselor, occupational health care, income maintenance counselor

Business and finance: accountant, administration, human resources director, economist, stockbroker, import-export agent

Communications: reporter, journalist, publisher, editor, interpreter, tour guide, public relations, film producer or director, sports agent

Science and Technology: Engineer, chemist physicist, anthropologist, archaeologist, geologist, biologist, oceanographer

Education: library science, elementary, secondary, and college level teaching in the US and abroad

Government: translator, interpreter, law enforcement, diplomatic foreign service, customs official, legal advisor

Other jobs include: Advertising Copywriter, Book Reviewer, Columnist/Commentator, Passenger Service Staff, Public Relations Representative, Radio Announcer, Production Manager, Technical Writer, Bilingual Educator, Peace Corps Volunteer, Researcher, World Bank, FBI Agent, State Department or Foreign Service, and Exchange Program Coordinator.

Books to help you identify international jobs and opportunities and programs abroad

Great Jobs for Foreign Language Majors by Julie Degalan and Stephen Lambert

Careers in International Affairs by Maria Pinto Carland

Or visit

30 Useful Resources for 1997 by the Monterey Institute of International Studies

General Almanac of International Jobs and Careers: A Guide to Over 1001 Employers and the Complete Guide to International Jobs and Careers. 2nd Editions, Krannich, Impact Publications, Manasses Park, VA, 1994 and 1992. Set covers paths, job hunting strategies, and employers.

Guide to Careers in World Affairs. 3rd Edition, Foreign Policy Association, Impact Publications, Manasses Park, VA, 1993. Identifies major international employers in business, government, nonprofits, and translation.

International Jobs: Where they are-How to get them. 4th Edition, Kocher. Addison-Wesley Publishing, Reading, MA 1993. General overview of international carrers, employers, career planning, and job hunting.

"Think ’Job Skills First...Then Think ’International Career’...," Planning Job Choices: 1997. 40th Edition, National Association of Colleges and Employers, Bethlehem, PA, 1996. Concise and realistic article for both undergraduate and graduate students wishing to find entry-level positions in international jobs.


American Jobs Abroad. Harlow and Knappman, Visible Ink Press, Gale Research, Inc., Detroit, MI, 1994. More than 800 US companies and 100 government/nonprofit agencies with career opportunities in 111 countries.

International Trade Resources Guide: Creating Job Through Trade. Stirling, California Chamber of Commerce and California Trade and Commerce Directory, 1993. States and metropolitan areas publish these type of international trade guides listing resources in the public and private sectors. Find the ones for your area.

Opportunities in International Business. Arpan, VGM Career Horizons, NTC Publishing Group, Lincolnwood, Il, 1994. Overview of international business functions with a chapter on educational preparation.


Foreign Affairs: The Career of Choice. The Foreign Affairs Agencies Recruitment Council, Washington, DC, 1993. Describes mission, positions, selection process and how to apply to major US Government agencies.

How to Find an Overseas Job with the US Government. Cantrell and Modderno, Worldwise Books, Oakton, VA, 1992. The US Government is the largest single employer of US citizens oversead in a wide array of jobs.

The Most Interesting Work in the World. US Department of State, Washington, DC, 1995. Student Intern Program (publication #10199), US Department of State, Washington, DC, Annual. Application for the Foreign Service Officer Examination (publicatin #10341). US Department of State, Washington, DC, Annual. Describes Foreign Service Officer/Specialist and Civil Service employee jobs with information on student employment programs. The Most Interesting Work in the World videotape is part of a recruitment package developed by the US Department of State in 1995.

International Development, Peace and Security

Interaction Member Profiles 1995-1996. Ed. by Geoghegan and Allen, InterAction- American Council for Voluntary International Action, Washington, DC, 1995. Listing of 150 private voluntary organizations (PVO’s).

International Affairs Directory of Organizations: The Access Resource Guide. Ed. Seymore, ABC-CLIO, Inc., Santa Barbara, CA, 1992. Information on war, peace, security, arms control and disarmament organizations.

The Peace Corps and More: 120 Ways to Work, Study and Travel in the Third World. 2nd Ed., Benjamin, Global Exchange, San Francisco, CA, 1993. How to get field experience in the interantional development field.

International Education

Academic Year Abroad, 1996-97 and Vacation Study Abroad, 1996-97. Institute of Internatinal Education(IIE), New York, NY, Annual. Best listings of US college sponsored study abroad for summer, semester and year.

Teaching English Abroad: Talk Your Way Around the World. 3rd Edition, Griffith, Vacation Work, Oxford, England (distributed by Peterson’s Guides, Princeton, NJ), 1996. The bible for teaching English overseas.

International Exchange Locator: A Guide to US Organizations, Federal Agencies, and Congressional Committees Active in International Educational Exchange. Ed. by Burton, Liaison Group for International Educational Exchange, Washington, DC (distributed by IIE Books, New York, NY), 1994. Over 150 listings. 

Internships, Study, Travel, and World Regions

The Access Guide to International Affairs Internships: Washington, DC. 4th Edition, Access, Washington, DC, 1996. Why not to do an international internship in the most international city in the US.

Directory of International Internships: A Guide to International Internships Sponsored by Educational Institutions, Government Agencies,a nd Various Organizations. 3rd Edition, Ed. by Gliozzo et al., Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 1994. Excellent resource for internship opportunities at home and abroad.

International Directory of Youth Internships with the United Nations, It’s Related Agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations: A Directory of Intern/Volunteer Opportunities. 5th Edition, Ed. by Morehouse, The Apex Press, New York, NY, 1993. Good outline of where UN agencies are operating worldwide.

International Internships and Volunteer Programs: International Options for Students andProfessionals. Cantrell and Modderno, Worldwise books, Oakton, VA, 1992. Intercultural experiences for all employer types.

Work, Study, Travel Abroad: The Whole World Handbook, 1994-95. 12th Edition, Council on International Educational Exchange, St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY, 1996. Unrivaled sourcebook for students.

After Latin American Studies: A Guide to Graduate Study, Fellowships, Internships and Employment for Latin Americanists. Kregar, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh, PA, 1991.

Opportunities in Africa. The African American Institute, Interbook, New York, NY, 1993.