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What will I do with a language major?

If you've set out to learn a language, you know that the favorite question of parents and well-meaning relatives is: "How is [insert name of language here] going to help you find a job?" Well, for starters, a language major doesn't restrict your job opportunities. On the contrary, a major in languages will open up more career options and make you more competitive on the job market. How?

A liberal arts degree. At most colleges and universities, a major in a foreign language is a solid liberal arts degree, and as with any liberal arts degree, the knowledge and abilities you obtain are applicable across a wide range of fields. Depending on the language you choose, your skills can prove of great professional value in fields as widely varied as business, medicine, sciences, engineering, computing, music, art, law, social work, public relations, politics, and the travel industry -- and these are just a select few of the fields in which languages may be relevant.

[See Careers for language majors.]

Cultural competence. In addition, your communication skills and cultural know-how can nicely complement virtually any career preparation. The study of a language entails much more than merely learning grammar and memorizing vocabulary. It gives you solid preparation for understanding and dealing with an entirely new culture, a skill of increasing significance due to globalization. Proficiency in foreign languages and an understanding of other cultures are essential tools in an increasingly interdependent world. For this reason, your communication skills and cultural know-how can nicely complement virtually any career preparation.

Diverse skill set. Apart from linguistic and cultural proficiency, a major in a language tells a potential employer something about the kinds of skills and abilities you possess: flexibility in learning and thinking, an appreciation of diversity, awareness of global perspectives, and the ability to interact effectively with people of different backgrounds, to name only a few.

[See Marketable skills of language majors.]

Post-graduation opportunities. If you choose not to enter the work force immediately, knowing another language can still be of great benefit. It can put in the position to travel or complete an international internship. Your language skills can make you an excellent candidate for fellowships or ambassadorial scholarships following graduation. And if you plan to attend graduate school, your language background will not only make you a stronger applicant; it will also put you further ahead in your degree program, since most graduate programs require at minimum a reading knowledge of at least one language other than English.

[See Language majors after graduation: What now?]

Competitive value. As you can plainly see, a major in a language is really an excellent way to distinguish yourself from other job applicants. And surely a major in languages cannot limit your career options. In any field of employment, the skills and knowledge you gain as a language major can round out the other abilities you possess. And in a global economy, the possibilities to use your language skills can only multiply.

Still not convinced? Read 10 reasons why you should learn a foreign language.

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