Roughly 6,500 languages are spoken throughout the world today. And while the United States uses diplomacy to engage with friends and foes throughout the world, at any given moment, someone, somewhere, in a foreign language, is plotting to do harm. That’s why it takes an army of national security linguists, translators and language professionals to keep America safe.

In Demand Area of Expertise for Clearance Holders

Linguistics is always going to be an in-demand area of expertise for the Department of Defense. One path to a linguistics career is military service – and you don’t necessarily need foreign language or cultural experience to serve as a linguist in the military. If you have the right aptitude, the Defense Language Center in Monterey, CA offers a variety of training tracks for various aptitude requirements. French, Spanish, Indonesian, Hebrew, Farsi, Russian, Tagalog, Urdu, a few Arabic dialects, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and Pashto – there are many language tracks you can follow.

Proving Your Proficiency

Military linguists may translate intercepted communications from terrorist leaders and conduct interviews. They also contribute to friendly relationships with other countries – which is vital to national security.

Without military service, your best asset will be native-level proficiency in a foreign language. The intelligence community and a variety of defense contractors require linguists of varying proficiency, and they’ll require a proficiency test to see how you stack up. While the military will allow for aptitude, in general the government and contractors are looking for a proven asset. But depending on the complexity of the language and the demand, even a basic proficiency may be enough to get your foot in the door.

The Power of an Add-On Skill

Languages can be a great ad-on skill set if you’re looking to pursue a career as an analyst. Vice versa, many linguists perform some degree of intelligence work, so the fields often crossover.

If you have a passion for people, a mission mindset and a head for languages, a career as a linguist may be the ideal fit for you.



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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸