Careers in Government
The need for multilingual workers in roles across the government sector—from national security and intelligence, to diplomacy and the military—is both urgent and growing. Language proficient professionals make a difference protecting justice, saving lives, and promoting peace.
The Need: Communicating Widely to Better Serve
The facts are undeniable. Despite the constant presence of other languages and cultures in their assignments, fewer than ten percent of U.S. Department of Defense military service personnel and only 13 percent of CIA employees speak a language other than English. Furthermore, nearly a full quarter (23 percent) of 2016 State Department overseas language-designated positions were filled by Foreign Service Officers lacking the requisite language proficiency.
For those seeking to enter the government workforce, language skills have become more than a resume-boosting asset. They are of vital importance to the safety and effectiveness of both the professionals themselves and the citizens they protect and serve. Additionally, when culturally competent and multilingual government workers are able to improve communication between individuals and nations, they play a vital role in shaping our international image and promoting trust and good diplomacy.
More good news: Not only will strong language skills help you secure an interview for your dream job, but many times agencies offer hiring bonuses for those proficient in other languages.
Student & Professional Testimonials
On Their Way: Student Profiles
Idaho Teen Earns Federal Scholarships to Learn Tajiki and Prepare for a Career in Service
Passionate about languages and Middle Eastern cultures, Jack learned Tajiki abroad as a NSLI-Y scholar in high school; he’s now headed to college with an ROTC scholarship and aspires to work for the CIA or State Department after graduation.
On the Job: Professional Profiles
Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Uses Language Skills Abroad and in Cyber
Jacqueline Jones, an Iowa native, knew she wanted to put her language skills to use in a fulfilling career: After multiple deployments overseas in the U.S. Army and an ankle replacement, she has begun her new role at the National Capital Region Cyber Protection Center.
From Peace Corps to USAID: Dagbani Language Skills Made the Bridge
Kentucky native Bethany Davidson became fluent in Dagbani while volunteering in Ghana; when a USAID position became available in the region, she credits her solid experience with the local language and culture for much of what happened next.
Iranian Immigrant and U.S. Army Veteran on Teaching Soldiers Her Native Farsi (+video)
Founder of Academy of United States Veterans, Assal Ravandi speaks to the importance of sharing Farsi and Dari phrases with fellow soldiers deployed in the Middle East during her military service.
Engaging the World: U.S. Global Competence for the 21st Century (+ videos)
Watch former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and others discussing the impact of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs, as well as language or cultural skills, on international peace.
Getting Started: Funding Opportunities and Job Search Pages
Many opportunities exist to help fund your preparation for a future career in government service—including support for language learning and study or internships abroad. In addition to funding available through your school or local community, check out these federal scholarships. Then browse the career sites of some federal agencies currently seeking employees proficient in more than one language.
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs, U.S. Department of State (High School)
Additional Articles and Resources
Foreign Service Institute Prepares Government Workers for Global Careers
FSI offers more than 800 courses both on-site in Arlington, VA, and via distance-learning—including classes in over 70 languages—and serves as a resource to future diplomats and current Foreign Service Officers throughout their careers. The School of Language Studies (SLS) alone counts over 500 instructors.
Diplomat in Residence Encourages Fellowships, Internships, Language Learning
Jon F. Danilowicz, the U.S. State Department Diplomat in Residence for New England, spoke with students at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University about the value of programs like the Consular Fellows Program and the Virtual Student Foreign Service—as well as language proficiency—to those interested in State Department careers.