Learning the Language: Why employers are on the hunt for bilingual graduates

Posted by Jamie Balkin

Now that the new school year is fast approaching , an influx of 20-something’s face important decisions to make regarding colleges. With competition so fierce, these applicants need something to make them stand out. Most fresh graduates do not have a lot of experience and hope their majors can guide them to their dream job. However, one major in particular, Language–often the most overlooked skill—holds the potential to set young Americans apart as they seek jobs. The Department of Labor claimed that translators and interpreters will be the one of the fifteen fastest growing occupations in the nation. In fact, there are 25,000 jobs expected to open up for interpreters and translators between 2012 and 2022.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook,

“Employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 46 percent [between those years], much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increasing globalization and by large increases in the number of non-English-speaking people in the United States. Job prospects should be best for those who have professional certification.”

      While a business major continues to be the most popular major choice—the most common since 1981– language majors are finding higher rates of employment following graduation. Not to mention, a language major’s average starting salary is $46,900; the highest of all Liberal Arts Majors.  Even business schools are recognizing the importance of foreign language. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “A growing number of business schools seem to be taking the view that a degree of fluency in at least one other major language is essential for the next generation of corporate leaders, despite the fact that most of their international programs are now conducted in English.”  Although, foreign language helps those in business, other industries now seek candidates with these qualifications as well. In particular, gargantuan companies like Amazon and Apple require bilingual employees in order to continue their success. Amazon requested Brazilian-Portuguese speakers for one of their customer service sections and Apple needed technology translators in Korean, Mexican-Spanish, and Chinese. At two of the most competitive companies in the world, knowing one of these languages can provide the edge needed to score the job. And it doesn’t stop there. Other industries like state departments, government contractors, the CIA, and the FBI will pay big money for bilingual people. The languages with the highest returns for the government are Arabic, Farsi and Pashto (Afghani). For the private companies Scandinavian and Asian languages will give you the most success. To the surprise of most, Spanish offers the lowest return since it is so common in the United States.

At Lionbridge onDemand, we currently employ a massive network of 25,000 translators worldwide, translating over 250 languages. The goal of a successful translator is to translate 2,500 to 3,000 words per day. The language translation industry is booming, requiring more educated and fluent individuals across the job span. For more information on working as a translator or interpreter check us out at www.lionbridge.com/careers/.