Many employers actively recruit applicants with language skills which are seen as particularly important in sectors such as manufacturing, banking, finance and insurance due to the globalisation of organisations.
As well as the specific knowledge gained from studying for an OU degree, you'll develop many transferable and work-related skills that are highly valued by employers and which will increase your employability.
The OU Careers Advisory Service defines student employability as: ‘A set of capabilities and achievements that support students in developing their careers, raising their aspirations and enhancing their contribution to society’.
Whatever your motivations for study, your goals and career aspirations, you are entitled to supported personal development planning either as an intrinsic part of your programme of study or through signposted optional activities. You can view our full Student Employability Policy Statement on our website.
For students of languages, the employability skills you will develop include the ability to:
To see specific learning outcomes related to the degrees in this area visit Study at the OU.
To check which skills valued by employers can be developed from studying a particular subject, look at the Employability Profiles on the UCAS website.
In the UK many graduates enter employment where a degree in any subject would be acceptable. In this instance what they offer the employer is evidence of the range of competencies which have been developed through their academic study, rather than the specific subject content of their degree. This page will focus on careers directly related to languages, including English, however, if you want to explore all of the choices open to you, also refer to the Further Resources section.
Given the current economic climate and the increased competition for graduate positions, it is important to consider a varied range of career options. Bear in mind that many careers require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
Employers in all fields value applicants who can communicate and present ideas and arguments effectively, such as English Language specialists. These skills can be used in work where written communication plays a major part, such as advertising, marketing, journalism, publishing and public relations. Additionally many English Language graduates go into teaching at all levels and some may specialise in teaching English to speakers of other languages.
Fluency in languages opens up career opportunities internationally as well as in the UK.
Languages may be central to some occupations, such as the diplomatic service, interpreting, translating, journalism, teaching and tourism, and in today’s global economy opportunities are constantly expanding. Other openings may be in the media, the leisure industry, international organisations, business and administration.
Languages graduates are found in a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies (national and European). We advise you to thoroughly research your career choices as early as possible, particularly in relation to experience required, differences relating to where you live, or where the study choices you make may affect future opportunities.
A CBI (Confederation of British Industry) survey in 2011, "Building for growth: business priorities for education and skills" (pages 45-46), highlighted the fact that 73% of employers wanted applicants who had conversational ability in languages. Employers felt that this skill helped to build relationships with businesses abroad and demonstrated that UK firms were keen to operate globally.
The results of the survey indicate that the highest demand is still for European languages, with 61% of employers wanting French, 52% German, 40% Spanish and 29% Polish. In addition 45% of employers were interested in recruiting Mandarin/Cantonese speakers as they look to break into the Chinese emerging markets, with demand for Arabic (22%) and Russian (20%) also high.
Use the Prospects website to explore career options related to English and Modern Languages where you will find examples of job roles and contacts for further research. You can also refer to the job sectors information for Marketing, Advertising and PR; Media and Publishing; and Creative Arts and Culture, which are often popular with English students. Also look at the section ‘Using your language skills’.
On our publications page, under the AGCAS tab, you can also access Industry Insights for career areas including Creative Arts & Culture, Media, Publishing and Tourism.
Appointments Bi-Language is a multilingual recruitment agency specialising in placing language graduates in a wide variety of bi-lingual roles including translation, interpreting, sales and customer service across a wide range of organisations both in the UK and abroad.
To find out about ways of gaining experience through volunteering see our voluntary work pages. You can also use the searchable databases on the following web sites:
Many graduates undertake further study on completion of their first degree and/or after gaining some relevant work experience. Reasons for doing so include wanting to explore an aspect of their studies in more depth, to further or change their career, or because a specific postgraduate qualification is either an entry requirement for their chosen career or would be an advantage if entry is competitive.
Generally postgraduate study can open up opportunities to work in higher education and teaching at other levels. For languages graduates it can open up further opportunities in professions related to this area such as interpreting, translating, journalism and other media related roles.
It is important to research further study options comprehensively by exploring the range of postgraduate courses and research opportunities on offer at the OU and elsewhere and funding possibilities to ensure you make the correct choice, for the right reasons and importantly that you can afford it, as funding for postgraduate study is very different to the undergraduate system.
Rigorous academic standards ensure that OU qualifications are recognised and valued by professional organisations and employers.
As an OU student, you can access the Employer Showcase to find out about some of the employers who are keen to recruit OU graduates.
Some companies in the Employer Showcase that are particularly relevant to Language graduates are
The UK Graduate Recruitment Co-ordinator of CGI said of OU students
they have got that unique skill set or background that perhaps our standard graduates don't have, they have thought about their career and how they're going to fit that in with the rest of their life as well. That's a very potent blend and already gives them a competitive advantage.
The Corporate Human Resources Supervisor of Enterprise commented that OU students are persistent and determined as they get through study demands while dealing with all the other commitments and responsibilities they have in their lives. He added
the single most important thing that I’d like to say to all OU graduates is that there are companies out there that want your talent, your experience and your knowledge.
If you are a student you might want to see further advice from major employers on applications, the skills they require and the value of OU study. Go to our What employers say pages.
As an OU student you can also register for our online vacancy service and receive email notification about job opportunities.
There are a wealth of resources on the OU careers website. You might want to watch the Guide to the careers site to give you an overview of what it has to offer.
Use the other sections of this web site to
Don’t forget to check the careers home page regularly for news of events, forums, careers fairs and short courses. If you are an OU student you can participate in and read entries on our online forums.
If you are a mature student you may find our tips for mature graduates page useful to help you tackle the graduate employment market.
You may also find it useful to read the publications produced by the OU Careers Advisory Service and AGCAS (available to download from this site) giving further in depth advice and information to help you plan your next career steps.
For some graduates, traditional forms of full-time employment are unattractive and increasing numbers of the workforce are turning to alternative ways of working that better fit their work and life values. Find out more about alternative work styles in the Exploring your career options section of this website.
If you are studying with the OU (or finished your studies within the last three years) you are entitled to a careers consultation with a careers adviser in your region or nation. This is designed to help you through the planning process and identify an action plan for your future. (If you are not studying with the OU or last studied with the OU more than 3 years ago, you should go to the Contact page of this website for other sources of careers advice.)
To see the experiences of other OU students visit 'Student stories'.
All UK graduates are invited to complete the Destinations of Leavers Survey six months after they graduate. Of the OU Modern Language Studies graduates that responded to the latest survey
64.6% were in work
Find out more about undergraduate study in Languages.
Currently only undergraduate study is available in this subject. However, there is a Masters degree in Education (Applied Linguistics).
Find out about all undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications at the OU on Study at the OU.
You can also find more information on the Faculty of Education and Language Studies site.