Speak to the World: Language Can Open Pathways to Careers

Studying a foreign language is a fantastic opportunity to explore the cultures of the world. Not only do you gain a valuable and tangible skill, but you are then able to engage with the art, literature and media of the cultures that speak that language. Further, learning a second language is a difficult undertaking. Successful completion of a degree in foreign language shows tenacity and work ethic that will guide you into a successful career.

Foreign language departments will differ between universities. While most have four-year programs in languages such as Spanish, German or French, other languages may receive less attention. Be sure to inquire with each university’s department to find out what their strengths are, and consider which languages you’d most like to study.

bowie state u students in chinaCareers in Foreign Languages

One of the great benefits of a degree in a foreign language is its flexibility. Because communication is integral to so many careers, knowledge of a foreign language easily integrates into a number of skill sets. However, there are a few careers tailored specifically to foreign languages. These include:

  • Interpreter/Translator: Interpreters serve as a go-between for individuals who do not speak the same language. Similarly, translators assess written works and translate between two or more languages. This career is in high demand, with 20% expected growth over the next decade.
  • Teacher: Foreign languages are important skills that are often taught in schools and universities. Therefore, there will always be a demand for teachers of foreign languages. Demand will vary depending on where you teach and the popularity of the language, but high schools and colleges will be in need of your services.
  • Diplomat: To engage with other countries, you must speak their language. Diplomats work in many levels of United States policy interactions with foreign countries and having foreign language skills is often necessary for jobs related to their work. Demand varies, but federal government employment tends to be a stable line of work. 

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Classroom with professor speaking to room full of college studentsHow to Prepare for Success

Success in foreign language requires you to be familiar with the fundamentals of English including grammar, vocabulary and syntax. Knowledge of other cultures will be helpful as well.

UNCF Schools to Consider

Ten UNCF-member schools offer programs for students wishing to study a foreign language, including:

Group shot of Anderson University West African EnsembleProfessional Organizations

There are many organizations in various foreign languages that advocate and promote language skills and their professions. A sample list includes:

In addition, there are organizations that advocate for specific languages including:


Several scholarships are available through UNCF. The UNCF General Scholarship Awards are an excellent opportunity for any student going to a UNCF-member college, regardless of their major. The UNCF/Koch Scholars Program offers scholarships, mentorship, academic support and networking opportunities to undergraduate African American students. The Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship Program awards a $10,000 scholarship to one exceptional HBCU senior each year who has demonstrated high academic achievement, strong leadership skills, commitment to community service and unmet financial need.

Students should also check with each college or university to see if there are other scholarships available to study foreign languages.

Reach out for guidance by submitting a major interest form if you are interested in a career in foreign languages. Submit the form on our website to get started. And follow us on UNCF social media channels to receive notifications about our scholarships and member HBCUs. Reach out today!