What Can You Do With a Degree in Modern Languages and Literatures?

A 2017 report, “Not Lost In Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market” (pdf), estimates that by 2020, proficiency in more than one language will be among the most important skills a job seeker can have, and research has also shown that foreign language skills can lead to enhanced job opportunities and higher wages for today’s workers.

The report notes that:

“In today’s globalized world, businesses need employees who can serve customers not only in English, but in a wide range of languages as well. In 2013 a record 305,000 U.S. companies reported exporting goods abroad. Similarly, customers here on U.S. soil are growing increasingly diverse. While just one in nine Americans spoke a language other than English at home in 1980, more than one in five did by 2014. Given this, it is not surprising that by 2020, proficiency in more than one language will be among the most important skills a job seeker can have.”

The Power of a Language Major or Minor

A major in French, Italian, Russian, or Spanish will give you a solid background in the language, literature, and culture that could lead to a rewarding career in international affairs, business, government, or teaching, and to studies at the graduate level in a variety of fields.

A double major in French, Italian, Russian, or Spanish and another field is highly impressive and will give you a competitive edge over other students as you enter the workforce.

The minor in Chinese, French, Italian, Russian, or Spanish will demonstrate your competence in a foreign language and culture, which is vital to employment in today’s global economy.

Top Employers for Brooklyn College Modern Languages and Literatures Alumni (based on LinkedIn)

There is a lot of information available on LinkedIn, including profiles of Brooklyn College alumni who graduated with a degree in modern languages and literatures or a related major. Join the Magner Career Center’s Brooklyn College Alumni & Student Professional Networking Group and the Brooklyn College Alumni group to see job/internship opportunities or connect with alumni and see where they are currently working, their skill sets, and career progression.

Here are some of the fields where bilingual skills are currently in demand in the labor market:

  • International Relations (policy analysis, foreign service, diplomacy)
  • International Business
  • Global Public Health
  • Refugee Advocacy and Resettlement Services
  • Migrant Justice and Immigration Services
  • Translating and Interpreting Services
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare (nurses, medical and health services managers, physical therapists, health educators)
  • Human Resources
  • Social Work, Psychology, Guidance Counseling, and Mental Health
  • Web and Software Development
  • Sales and Operations Management
  • Journalism and Communications
  • Editing and Publishing
  • Education

Keep in mind, this list isn’t inclusive of all the opportunities available to modern language and literature students. Use the Magner Career Center resources to your advantage to find opportunities that align with your interests!

Here are some helpful guides for more information about various career fields:

The Power of a Liberal Arts Degree

Students are known to gain a variety of interpersonal skills as liberal arts majors, and according to an article by NACE, employers value and are seeking the following skills:

  • Global/Intercultural Fluency
  • Oral/Written Communications
  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork/Collaboration
  • Digital Technology

For more information, visit the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Benefits of a Degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences webpage about the value of a liberal arts degree.

What Is the Average Salary for Foreign Language Occupations?

Factors such as geographic location, education level, industry, and experience play a role on salary. NACE has projected an annual salary of $47,000 for Modern Languages and Literatures majors (based on data from 2017). Sources such as Linkedin Salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Glassdoor may also be helpful for determining salary trends amongst different occupations and industries.

On-Campus Resources

There are available resources right on campus that will help you develop your skills and learn more about career options. Make sure to keep up to date on the resources available to you!

Magner Career Center

You can visit the Magner Career Center by heading to 1303 James Hall for greater resources about how to find opportunities in your field of interest.

  • Come by 1303 James Hall during drop-in hours, Monday–Thursday, for résumé and cover letter feedback. No appointment is needed.
  • Learn more about international internship resources.
  • Join the Alumni Mentor Program, where you can get matched with a Brooklyn College alumni in your field of interest. Visit our webpage for more information about how to participate and get paired with a mentor.
  • Check out the Magner Center’s YouTube playlist for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, where you can learn some insider tips from employers, recruiters, current students, and alumni.
  • HireBC, Brooklyn College’s Job Board, features competitive job and internship positions. You can even upload your résumé and receive feedback! Be sure to access it via the Brooklyn College WebCentral Portal under the “Career” tab. Also check out the “Career Workshops” tab for related career events to network with current students, recruiters, and alumni.
  • Pamela Brown is the liaison to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She can provide assistance regarding career guidance, internships, and jobs. For more information or to set up appointments, visit the center’s webpage, call 718.951.5696, or visit 1303 James Hall.

Department Resources

Student Clubs

Join some of these clubs, or learn more about club events on campus by logging into your Brooklyn College WebCentral account. Click on the “Student Affairs” tab, then Bulldog Connection.

Off-Campus Resources

CUNY MeetUps

CUNY MeetUps consists of various industry groups that host various events throughout the semester open to all CUNY students and alumni.


Vault offers access to a variety of career-related resources from internship opportunities to industry overviews. You can also view “Vault Guides” to learn more about certain careers. See the following examples:

Occupational Network (O*NET)

Occupational Network (O*NET) provides occupational statistics such as salaries and growth potential for all occupations. You can search occupations of your own interests, skills, abilities, etc.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Occupational Outlook Handbook gives you information on the training and education needed for the job, earning potential, expected job prospects, what you would be doing on the job, and what the working conditions are like. Check out this article about “Putting Your Liberal Arts Degree to Work.”

Additional Reports on the Importance of Bilingualism in the U.S. Labor Market

Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers (pdf)

Bilingualism is one of the top eight skills required of all occupations according to an analysis of close to 15 million jobs. A majority of U.S. employers say that their need for foreign languages has increased over the past five years and project that it will continue to grow. These findings are in line with other surveys that indicate that the need for bilingual workers has more than doubled in the past decade.

Language Study in the Age of Globalization (pdf)

In addition to providing you with knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are necessary in the workplace, the study of languages, literatures, and cultures, like the study of history, philosophy, or mathematics, helps you develop the analytic skills needed to be an effective participant in local and national discussions. Studying languages in the context of history, politics, and popular culture can help you follow international events with insight, opening up perspectives to make you an informed and responsible citizen of your country and of the world.

Brooklyn. All in.