Jobs where foreign language skills are most important

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November 4, 2020
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Jobs where foreign language skills are most important

In a tough job market, everyone’s looking for a way to make their resume stand out from the competition. That might mean learning new software, earning a professional certificate, asking previous employers for letters of recommendation, or other tried-and-true techniques. Or, it could mean something way out of the box. Some prospective employees have tried to woo their dream companies with everything from tucking their resume inside a hand-delivered box of doughnuts to offering the hiring manager a foot massage. Do you really need to pull a far-fetched stunt to advance your career?

Not necessarily. For some positions, having an advanced degree from a prestigious university or decades of experience in the field isn’t nearly as important being what one in five people in the U.S. already are: bilingual. In fact, a report from the New American Economy has found that the demand for bilingual workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2015. What’s more, the need for employees who speak another language in addition to English has grown “at both the low and high ends of the skill spectrum.” The ability to speak Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese are among the most sought-after skills, the report added.

In order to find the jobs where foreign language skills are most important, Stacker took a look at the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration’s O*Net database. Jobs were ranked by how important having foreign language skills are to that particular position.

The research revealed some interesting trends in the fields with the highest demand for foreign language speakers. Nearly a third of the jobs that placed the highest value on bilingualism were in teaching, postsecondary education, and related fields—including the top occupation on this list. Health care positions like pediatricians, neurologists, and physician assistants also ranked highly—an understandable trend, considering that being able to communicate medical issues with a diverse community of patients could be a prized skill at hospitals and private practices. But there were also some surprising outliers. Who knew roofers, for example, would have such a high need for a second language?

If you have a knack for learning languages and you’re considering your career options, click through to see the best jobs where foreign language skills are very important.

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Philip Halling

#39. Geographers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 45 out of 100

Geographers study nature and aspects of the Earth’s surface such as land formations, climate, and soil. Since these tasks may require travel to different parts of the world, as well as looking at research from other countries, the ability to understand various languages could help a geographer achieve greater success.

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Pixabay

#39. Communications Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 40 out of 100

People in this job teach courses focused on communications—such as those in journalism, public relations, and broadcasting—at colleges and universities. It should come as no surprise that people who’ve dedicated their careers to expression and communication place a high value on learning a foreign language. Plus, being able to speak with people from around the world can be useful in storytelling and other forms of communication.

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#39. Pediatricians, General (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 37 out of 100

Doctors who specialize in the care and treatment of children are called pediatricians. Bilingual pediatricians may have an easier time working with patients who don’t speak English and properly explaining health conditions to them, according to the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. However, even pediatricians who can speak a second language may still need to rely on an interpreter to ensure that their patients understand what’s going on during their appointments.

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#39. Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 33 out of 100

People in this occupation offer counseling to students and provide advice on education and vocational services. Since they may need to provide crisis interventions, help people overcome personal challenges, and offer guidance on important educational choices, counselors who can speak a second language could make it easier to help students who don’t speak English understand their options.

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JAXPORT // Flickr

#39. Customs Brokers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 31 out of 100

A customs broker may encounter languages other than English as they prepare customs documentation for shipments of imported goods from abroad. They may also need to use a second language to communicate with customs officials, apply for tax refunds, and understand tariff reclassifications.

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#39. Roustabouts, Oil and Gas (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 29 out of 100

Workers in this occupation use hand and power tools to assemble or fix equipment for oil fields. If they happen to be working for a rig company with operations abroad, understanding a second language could help make it easier to work as a team with local workers.

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#39. Travel Guides (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 35 out of 100
- Level required: 23 out of 100

Travel guides are responsible for planning and conducting tours, along with preparing itineraries, selling travel packages, and arranging expeditions. They may need to rely heavily on foreign language skills to communicate with clients and vendors, as well as to help solve on-the-ground problems that come up on their tours.

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#32. Curators (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 45 out of 100

Curators administer collections of historic items, artwork, collectibles, and other valuable artifacts for museums and cultural institutions. If they need to acquire pieces from abroad, curators may need to speak a second language to make the arrangements.

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#32. Neurologists (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 38 out of 100

Doctors who diagnose and treat diseases of the nervous system are known as neurologists. They may need to interpret diagnostic tests, order lab work, diagnose conditions, and interview patients who don’t speak English—all tasks that could be easier with the help of a second language.

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#32. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physicians (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 34 out of 100

Also known as physiatrists, people in this occupation treat health conditions that affect everything from the brain and spinal cord to the joints, muscles, and tendons, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Physiatrists, like other doctors, may find themselves working with patients who don’t speak English.

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#32. Self-Enrichment Education Teachers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 32 out of 100

Courses on self-improvement and non-academic subjects like dance, driving, or martial arts are taught by self-enrichment education teachers. Depending on their fields, they may need to use teaching materials from other cultures and provide instruction to students who don’t speak English as a first language, so knowledge of a foriegn language could be helpful.

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#32. Orthoptists (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 29 out of 100

Orthoptists are health care practitioners who specialize in treating visual system disorders like eye movement impairments. Many countries require that orthoptists who wish to work abroad pass a local language test, according to the International Orthoptic Association.

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#32. Lodging Managers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100
- Level required: 20 out of 100

Lodging managers work in hotels, resorts, and other traveler accommodations. They may encounter people from all around the world as they coordinate activities and run lodging operations. Understanding foreign languages could help them solve problems and facilitate a better guest experience.

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DFID - UK Department for International Development // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Community Health Workers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 36 out of 100

People in this occupation provide outreach and health guidance to specific communities of people, such as those in a particular ethnic or cultural group. If members of the community they’re working with primarily speak a language other than English, a community health worker may need to communicate in a second language in order to hit their objectives.

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#30. Nurse Midwives (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 37 out of 100
- Level required: 39 out of 100

Nurse midwives diagnose and coordinate the birthing process, either on their own or as a member of a larger health care team. Being bilingual can help nurse midwives offer their services to a diverse set of patients in need of care and help facilitate communication between doctors and patients who don’t speak English, according to Minority Nurse.

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#30. Roofers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 37 out of 100
- Level required: 28 out of 100

As their name suggests, roofers specialize in the construction of roofs. They cover the tops of structures with materials like shingles, aluminum, slate, and asphalt, and they may also provide soundproofing and insulation. Those who speak a second language may be able to better communicate with other members of their team and offer services to diverse communities of clients.

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#29. Musicians, Instrumental

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 38 out of 100
- Level required: 35 out of 100

Instrumental musicians play music as solo artists or as part of orchestras or bands. Many music notations, like “forte” and “piano,” are Italian words, so understanding the basics of that language could help a musician improve their ability to play particular works, writes Classic FM.

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Apsara Photo // Shutterstock

#25. Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 39 out of 100
- Level required: 44 out of 100

People in this occupation work in academic settings, like universities and colleges, and teach courses on philosophy, theology, and religion. Knowing how to read in a foreign language could help these instructors conduct research on a specific subject and communicate with students who don’t speak English as a first language.

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Pxfuel

#25. Physician Assistants (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 39 out of 100
- Level required: 39 out of 100

Supervised by a doctor, physician assistants offer health care services such as conducting physicals, counseling patients, and writing prescriptions. They serve patients from many backgrounds, so knowing a foreign language could help eliminate communication barriers. Some physician assistant programs at universities require that students study a foreign language, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

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#25. Eligibility Interviewers, Government Programs (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 39 out of 100
- Level required: 30 out of 100

These workers conduct interviews with people applying for certain government assistance like welfare, public housing, or unemployment insurance benefits, determining whether or not they’re eligible. They may need to speak in a foreign language, such as Spanish, in order to provide help to people from different communities.

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#25. Special Education Teachers, Preschool (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 39 out of 100
- Level required: 24 out of 100

These instructors teach young students who have physical, mental, or learning disabilities. Some special education students may have limited communication abilities. A teacher who can speak their language can provide more effective education.

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mmspective // Shutterstock

#19. Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100
- Level required: 49 out of 100

Typically employed by universities and colleges, political science teachers offer courses in politics, international relations, and international affairs. They may also conduct research in their fields. Giving the international nature of the subject matter they focus on, these workers may need to lean on foriegn language skills during the course of their work.

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COD Newsroom // Flickr

#19. History Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100
- Level required: 42 out of 100

Workers in this occupation teach history and conduct research at universities, colleges, and other postsecondary institutions. Proficiency in a second language could open up job opportunities for history teachers in other countries, helping them incorporate materials from around the world into their courses.

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#19. Government Property Inspectors and Investigators (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100
- Level required: 39 out of 100

These workers inspect government property, such as airports, construction sites, and housing, to ensure that they’re in compliance with regulations and contractual agreements. In the course of their work, government property inspectors and investigators may need to communicate with people who don’t speak English.

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fizkes // Shutterstock

#19. Instructional Coordinators (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100
- Level required: 33 out of 100

Schools rely on instructional coordinators to develop teaching materials, coordinate content, and help teachers incorporate technology into their courses. Proficiency in a language other than English may allow instructional coordinators to help with foreign language lessons.

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#19. First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100
- Level required: 22 out of 100

Workers in this occupation supervise retail sales workers and take care of certain managerial tasks like budgeting and accounting. If a customer at the store needs help in a language other than English, the clerk may turn to a first-line supervisor for help.

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#19. Solar Thermal Installers and Technicians (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 40 out of 100

Solar thermal installers and technicians help residential, industrial, and commercial properties meet their solar energy needs. Bloomberg Opinion says that just one of the top 10 solar-cell makers are from the U.S. Therefore, solar thermal installers and technicians may find themselves using a foreign language when trying to acquire equipment and troubleshoot systems from companies abroad.

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Evgenia Eliseeva // Wikimedia Commons

#17. English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 41 out of 100
- Level required: 39 out of 100

English language and literature instructors teach and research comparative literature and linguistics. Knowing a second language may provide more context to their main areas of study and help these instructors work with students who don’t speak English as a first language.

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#17. Chefs and Head Cooks (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 41 out of 100
- Level required: 31 out of 100

Chefs and head cooks supervise food preparation at places where people dine, such as restaurants and cafeterias. There are a variety of ways that a foreign language may be useful to these workers. For example, they may oversee the work of more junior employees who don’t speak English, or they may need to read and prepare recipes from other countries.

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#15. Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 43 out of 100
- Level required: 43 out of 100

These instructors teach a variety of fine and applied art, music, drama, and other creative subjects at colleges and universities, among other postsecondary educational institutions. Since certain musical compositions and plays are written in foreign languages, it may be helpful for these professors to speak an additional language.

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#15. Flight Attendants (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 43 out of 100
- Level required: 35 out of 100

Flight attendants help ensure that airplane passengers are safe, secure, and comfortable. The very nature of their job means they may regularly travel abroad and interact with passengers from all over the world, so it may be extremely useful for flight attendants to be multilingual.

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#14. Parking Enforcement Workers

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 44 out of 100
- Level required: 49 out of 100

Parking enforcement workers patrol certain areas and write tickets to drivers who park illegally or violate other rules. If they’re trying to address a parking issue with a driver who doesn’t speak English, they may need to rely on another language to work through the problem.

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#13. Speech-Language Pathologists

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 46 out of 100
- Level required: 37 out of 100

Speech-language pathologists assess and treat issues related to communication and swallowing in kids and adults. If they know another language, they may be able to work with patients who don’t speak English without waiting for assistance from a translator. They may also be able to more easily identify speech impediments among non-English speakers.

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#12. Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 47 out of 100
- Level required: 31 out of 100

Like many other workers in the travel industry, ticket agents and travel clerks often need to interact with customers who are visiting from other countries and may not be fluent in English. They may need to use a second language to take reservations for transportation and accommodations.

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#11. Music Directors

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 48 out of 100
- Level required: 42 out of 100

Music directors conduct performances by groups like orchestras and choirs. Music often uses terms from languages other than English, such as Italian, so a music director may need to be multilingual. The need to speak more than one language is amplified for music directors who are working with musicians from many countries.

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#10. Immigration and Customs Inspectors

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 51 out of 100
- Level required: 43 out of 100

Workers in this occupation investigate people who are traveling to or from the U.S. to ensure compliance with immigration and customs rules. They may need to use a second language to explain certain laws to prospective immigrants and other travelers.

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#9. First-Line Supervisors of Agricultural Crop and Horticultural Workers

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 52 out of 100
- Level required: 35 out of 100

Farms and other horticultural and agricultural businesses rely on these workers to supervise and coordinate more junior employees. Knowledge of Spanish can be extremely useful for first-line supervisors of agricultural crop and horticulture workers, as that’s the language that 77% of farmworkers are most comfortable conversing, according to a 2015-2016 report from the federal government.

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#8. Singers

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 57 out of 100
- Level required: 39 out of 100

Singers perform songs in entertainment venues, on TV and the radio, and in movies. It’s common for opera singers in particular to understand multiple languages, especially Italian, German, and French, as many operas are written in those languages.

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#7. Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 62 out of 100
- Level required: 68 out of 100

Postsecondary anthropology and archeology teachers may need to travel extensively and look at primary source materials from around the world to conduct their research and teaching. Knowing the language that’s spoken in the primary area that their work focuses on could be essential for people in this occupation.

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#6. Farm Labor Contractors

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 63 out of 100
- Level required: 54 out of 100

Farm labor contractors are responsible for recruiting and hiring agricultural laborers for seasonal or temporary jobs. They may also need to provide housing, transportation, and food to these farmworkers. Farm labor contractors may have an easier time at work if they speak Spanish, the language in which many farmworkers are comfortable communicating.

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Gemenacom // Shutterstock

#4. Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 64 out of 100
- Level required: 63 out of 100

College courses related to culture and ethnic groups are typically taught by workers in this occupation. The importance of foreign language skills for these professors may depend on their exact fields of study. A Latin American studies instructor, for example, may need to speak Spanish, while knowledge of Arabic could be important for a professor in a Muslim studies program.

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Daumantas Liekis // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Anthropologists (tie)

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 64 out of 100
- Level required: 61 out of 100

Anthropologists research different parts of the human experience like behavior and culture, or the origins of mankind. Proficiency in the language of the groups they study could bring anthropologists a much deeper understanding as they conduct research.

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Harpofeder // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Archeologists

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 67 out of 100
- Level required: 64 out of 100

Archeologists research human remains, artifacts, and architecture recovered from excavation sites to understand past human life. English may not be widely spoken in areas where an archeologist is conducting research, so they may need to rely on a second language. Furthermore, key early texts from archeologists were written in French and German, not English, according to Habits of a Travelling Archaeologist.

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#2. Interpreters and Translators

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 98 out of 100
- Level required: 95 out of 100

It should come as no surprise that interpreters and translators rely heavily on their second- and third-language proficiencies to do their jobs. The main tasks of their work involve translating written materials and interpreting speech from one language to another.

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#1. Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary

- Importance of knowing a foreign language: 100 out of 100
- Level required: 94 out of 100

You can’t be a foreign language and literature instructor at a university or college without being fluent in another language. These instructors are primarily responsible for teaching students how to speak and read a second language and understand literature from other countries.

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