Could French, the language of love, also be a ticket to a fruitful career? This beautiful vernacular is a window to some fantastic academic and career opportunities, especially if you’ve got a passion for traveling.
This guide will acquaint you with options as you begin your path and pursue an education and career as a Francophone.
Part I. The French Industry
We all know French is the official language of France, but its range is worldwide with 200 million speakers in more than 50 countries. Spoken in Belgium and Switzerland, French can also be heard in parts of Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia and Madagascar. The dialect is heard in the Canadian province of Québec as well as communities in both Maine and Louisiana, according to the BBC.
Descended from Latin, French was the preferred language for literature, the arts, science and business beginning in the 17th century, and the rich history of the language has made it highly popular with academics.
An Overview of Francophile Careers
There are many directions you can take as a French speaker, depending on your long-term interests. Here are a few of the many options to get you started thinking:
- As one of the five languages that is spoken on five continents, French is also the official working language of several international bodies, including the European Union; the International Monetary Fund; the International Red Cross; and the United Nations; and NATO. Bilingual competence could perhaps make you a more competitive candidate if you choose to pursue a career with one of these organizations.
- Working as a translator or an interpreter is an option with career opportunities in many different settings, including schools, hospitals, courtrooms, and conference centers. There are also opportunities in translating for academic purposes or for French literature, such as working for a French publisher.
- Teaching French is a common option as French is widely taught and studied in both the K-12 education system as well as at institutions of higher education. There are also career opportunities to teach English while living in France where fluency in French is highly recommended, and sometimes required.
- Fluency in French can prepare you for a range of careers in fields like international business, foreign affairs, nongovernment organizations, science, and public health, working with a U.S. business or international venture.
Career and Salary Outlook
As the world of business and commerce continues to become more globalized, there is an increasing need to have a second language under one’s belt — regardless of his or her specific field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for interpreters and translators will grow 42% between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage of interpreters and translators was $43,300 in May 2010; translators who worked for professional organizations earned the highest income.
If you have a passion for education, there are many French teaching positions that pay quite well. Indeed.com estimates the average French teachers and tutors in the U.S. make roughly $55,000. Professors or faculty members at institutions of higher education can often earn a much higher salary, depending on their level of education and expertise.
Part II. Top U.S. French Programs
New York University
- Specialized degrees: The Bachelor of Arts in French, the Master of Arts in Literary Translation, and an online French literary translation certificate are great options for Francophone students. The M.A. is geared for students who want to translate from French to English at a professional level. This one-year program includes a fall and spring semester in NYC, and a six-week course at the NYU Center in France. Studying abroad in Paris for at least one semester is highly recommended for the B.A. program, as well. The online translation certificate is a great way to add another line to your resume and advance your career without moving locations or investing in more formal education.
- Industry perception: The programs in NYC and Paris provide students with ideal access and location, since the vast majority of American publishers who are likely to publish French books in translation are located in the Big Apple. The NYU Center in Paris also provides students access to French authors and publishers in Paris.
- Tuition: The bachelor’s program has a flat tuition rate of $20,439.00 per semester, and the graduate school charges a tuition rate of almost $1,500 per credit hour.
- Financial aid: Students admitted to the M.A. in Literary Translation will be granted a 20% tuition remission on the Fall and Spring semesters in New York City and at least 24% tuition remission on the Summer intensive session in Paris. More information on financial aid is available here.
University of Louisiana Monroe
- Specialized degrees: The B.A. in Modern Language with a concentration in French
- Industry perception: The university has an over 80-year history, and an annual enrollment around 8,500. ULM has tried to keep up with the fast-paced of technology by providing distance and online programs to better serve student needs.
- Tuition: The degree program requires 120 hours, and students must complete 30 hours above the elementary level of the language. Estimated tuition and fees for non-resident undergraduate students taking 12 credit hours per semester can expect to pay tuition of roughly $7,215.45, and Louisiana residents will pay $2,805.45.
- Financial aid: Students may obtain a financial aid combination of scholarships, grants, campus work-study, and loans depending upon financial need, leadership qualities, and other factors.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Specialized degrees: The self-paced courses offered by the Independent Learning department range from first-year French to third-year French in business and fourth-year poetry. A degree is not offered, but students can use the credits to satisfy degree requirements either at the University of Wisconsin or at other institutions through transfer, depending on their institutions guidelines.
- Industry perception: As the only provider of advanced, college-credit, distance learning courses in French in the United States, the Independent Learning system is innovative in its approach and design. The UW Extension office ensures students have a quality experience taught at a high-level.
- Tuition: $327 per credit hour, plus a $75 administrative fee per course. When a student signs up for the course they have up to a year to actually enroll and finish the course, once payment is received by the university. It is designed to be a self-guided education experience.
- Financial aid: Financial aid eligibility runs on a per-student-basis with continuing education courses — so it is best to check with the office to see what kind of options you have.
University of Oregon
- Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Specialized degrees: The Department of Romance Languages offers several bachelor’s degree programs that combine the languages, literature, and cultures of the French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish language speaking worlds in a flexible program. Students can select Spanish or Italian in combination with French to complete their degree. There are several options for a minor as well.
- Industry perception: As the largest language, literature, and culture department in the Northwest, the UO is proud of its distinguished faculty. In combination with the degree programs students study around the world, and the program is well respected.
- Tuition: In-state students will be charged a tuition bill around $2,569.25 per quarter, and non-residents will pay $7,729.25.
- Financial aid: The Romance Language department offers several scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students. The financial aid office for the university provides students with the typical federal aid options including loans, scholarships, grants, and work study.
Part III. Launching a Career
If you are interested in making a career out of your French language experience there are a number of steps you can take to save money on your tuition in the long run. If you have the ability to take French classes in high school, then you should definitely take advantage.
Take Cheap Intro Courses
Depending on the courses you take you can transfer or earn those credits and apply them to a bachelor’s degree. A language placement test such as the SAT French subject test or the WebCAPE Online Placement Exam can earn you college credit for the language skills you already have.
If high school courses are out of the question, there are a number of free options to take advantage, such as the BBCs range of free French language videos that will help you get you on your feet. Here are several more:
- The Annenberg Foundation’s French in Action video collection provides direct instruction and storylines for language immersion.
- The Open Learning Initiative through Carnegie Mellon University offers several elementary French courses complete with self-paced videos with self-assessment tools.
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers several free French courses for both French I and French II through OpenCourseWare.
- Online French materials including textbooks, videos, and other materials are also available at the University of Texas at Austin interactive website.
Not only can you get the basics of the French language without paying tuition, but you can also study up and take the language placement exams, and eventually earn credit. The College Board’s CLEP exam, for example, is one way to earn such credit. Make sure to verify that your institution of higher education will accept this kind of credit — there are a few who do not.
Certify Your Proficiency
There are a number of different ways you can try and boost your resume to stand out as you launch your career. Remember to begin with end in mind, and plan accordingly so that you can combine as many opportunities as possible to be competitive when you are ready to enter the job market.
There isn’t a universal translation or interpreting certificate, but several organizations offer programs to demonstrate your proficiency, including: the American Translators Association, U.S. Department of State, and the International Association of Conference Interpreters. These bodies also offer job shadowing, internship and volunteer opportunities for students to get experience and build their resumes.
Use French to Gain Global Experiences
Study abroad! Complete an internship abroad! There are thousands of opportunities to get international experience either earning credit or as a professional. Here are just a few:
- MIT France connects students with research and professional opportunities including past projects such as reimagining the Paris Metro system, fighting infectious diseases at Institut Pasteur, or studying with a team of architects at Ateliers Jean Nouvel.
- University of Texas, Austin offers opportunities for both UT and students from other universities to study at their location in Lyon, France, during a seven-week course.
- There are many different study abroad organizations such as ISA, Rotary Exchange and the University Studies Abroad Consortium, which offer an array of opportunities to study the French language from France to Africa. Check out this list of top study abroad programs for French students.
- The American Translators Association works with the Red Cross to provide volunteer interpreters during crises. Since French is an official language this may be a great option.
The University of Minnesota also offers several summer institutes in the French language through their Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA). These institutes are a great way to get academic experience, learn about research and earn graduate credits. Designed specifically for those interested in teaching, these institutes attract teachers from all over the country. Institute topics include language assessment, basics of second language acquisition, teaching language and culture, immersion education, and teaching language through content.
C’est la Vie!
Don’t be afraid to pave an unconventional route to success. If language is something you love then feel free to see where it takes you by traveling, networking, and trying new experiences. Passion and dedication can often be two of the best attributes in an employee for any employer — so let your desires to learn and explore be your guide!