Global Economy Sparks Boom in Language-Related Careers

Posted By Candace Talmadge on October 6, 2015 at 8:49 am
Global Economy Sparks Boom in Language-Related Careers

With an ever-increasing need for college graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), demand for college graduates with degrees in the humanities is often overlooked. But the truth is that there is huge potential for graduates of the humanities and liberal arts – especially those fluent in foreign languages.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected employment growth between 2012 and 2022 for interpreters and translators is 46 percent. This is more than four times the estimated overall job expansion growth of 11 percent for the same period. Language services will be a $38.16 billion industry this year, and could soar to $49.8 billion by 2019, according to Common Sense Advisory, an independent market research firm specializing in the language services industry.

Where the increase is coming from

Much of the reason for the rapid growth is global companies’ booming need to tailor a broad range of business materials for different languages and cultures, a process known as localization. These materials include product descriptions for prescription drugs, websites, software user manuals and more. But translators and interpreters are also in demand by U.S. government agencies, hospitals, and courts, which now are required by law to offer their services in languages other than English, said Melissa Gillespie, Common Sense Advisory’s director of public relations.

Experts point out that job opportunities in the language services industry are not limited to interpreting and translating. Moravia IT, LLC, a major language service provider that specializes in software localization, actually hires very few linguists, according to Renato Beninatto, chief marketing officer. Most of the jobs at Moravia, which is based in Brno, Czech Republic, and employs 900 people in nine countries, are for project management, team leadership, vendor management, quality control, and even accounting.

Additionally, students who do major in STEM fields may make themselves more desirable to employers by adding a language to their studies, said Laura Brandon, executive director of the Globalization and Localization Association, based in Seattle. “Companies are looking for globally savvy employees” who speak more than one language, she explained.

Beninatto said an accountant who is fluent in a foreign language is a better translator for that particular field than someone with a degree in language or linguistics, but no accounting experience. This also applies to other fields, such as law or medicine. Adding foreign language fluency to professional education and training makes a person stand out as a job candidate.

Why the need isn’t being met

One issue for students interested in language services is the fact that most U.S. colleges and universities do not provide career-oriented language instruction. “It doesn’t help to study French literature,” Brandon said. She and Beninatto both cited the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California as an example of a higher education organization that does a good job of equipping students with the business language skills that companies want.

Beninatto also pointed out that students who decide to focus on translation and interpretation careers most likely will be self-employed and will also need to learn marketing and business skills. In addition to acquiring one to three areas of content expertise, students should develop one to three areas of speciality, such as video subtitling translation.

“Don’t wait until you graduate to start working professionally,” Beninatto emphasized. Students can start by signing up at translation websites to help pay for college.

Candace Talmadge
Candace Talmadge has been a professional writer since 1976. She has been on staff or reported and written freelance for media that includes Adweek, Advertising Age, BusinessWeek, the Dallas Times Herald, the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and Reuters America.

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