Language degrees and coursework prepare students for rewarding careers abroad or close to home designed to broaden linguistic ability and cultural knowledge.
From brief certification programs to advanced doctoral degrees, language education can be found across a full range of levels. Students at each level may have different goals, from careers that have a small bilingual component, to those which are dominated by translation and interpretation. Take a look at the basic training levels:
- Certification: This popular level is perfect for those looking to apply for fellowships, study abroad or add on to existing training and experience. Certificate programs may focus on a particular subject areas within a language, for example, German for business or medical terminology in Spanish.
- Associate degree: A basic, two-year degree focusing on the language itself, with occasional options for cultural instruction.
- Bachelor's degree: A bachelor's degree provides a well-rounded approach to a language, including literature, history and cultural studies. Becoming certified as a translator or interpreter typically requires a bachelor's degree or higher in addition to passing certification exams.
- Master's degree: This degree is likely to focus on specific elements of communication such as foreign language education, sociolinguistics or issues in translation.
- Doctoral degree: The highest level of training allows students to focus on larger policies or research in language acquisition, education, linguistics and more.
Instruction in the language itself will be more common in certificate, associate and bachelor's degree levels. At the higher levels of training, fluency in the language is generally presumed, and coursework focuses on literature written in the language, cultural events in areas where the language is featured and theoretical issues in language and linguistics.
Online language and translation websites have become a common tool for language students. With online education, the distance between online resources and professional education shrinks further. Online degrees in language make use of video and audio tutorials to help students develop key listening and speaking skills. Students can record themselves speaking and get feedback from peers and professors online.
Some online language courses also make use of video or web conferencing technology so students can log on and converse in real time. Grammar exercises can be hosted by online platforms that offer tutorials and online quizzes with immediate feedback for students.
The best candidates for language degree training have a natural interest in language and culture across the world. Career paths for language graduates are as diverse as language itself; from bilingual call center workers to translators working in specialized fields such as medicine or engineering, there is a need for people who can communicate across language barriers. According to the University of Tennessee, common careers for language graduates include:
- Government: translation, foreign diplomacy, civil service, immigration
- Arts & entertainment: advertising, broadcasting, public relations, translation
- Commerce: operations management, translation, imports/exports, customer service
- Travel & tourism: airline services, interpretation, travel services, booking/reservations
- Education & service: mission work, teaching, social work, health services
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that interpreters and translators earned mean annual wages of $49,790 in 2010, the career field is just the beginning of the type of work graduates may find with facility in multiple languages.
- Total number of foreign language degrees, 2008-2009: 21,158 bachelor's degrees, 3,592 master's degrees, 1,111 doctoral degrees
- Most common languages, bachelor's degree level: Spanish (9,331), French (2,450), Classical languages (1,152), German (1,058)
- Foreign language degrees on the rise: Arabic, Chinese, Korean
(Source: Nation Center for Education Statistics, 2010)