SOAS University of London

Careers Service

Working outside the UK

General introduction to all countries

As a SOAS graduate, you may well have gained competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding.  Familiarity with a particular region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature, history, cinema, politics, economics or law.

In addition to this specialist knowledge, employers widely respect that students have developed a valuable combination of transferable skills which include:

  • gathering, processing and critically evaluating information from a variety of paper, audio-visual and electronic sources
  • identifying, describing and analysing problems and devising appropriate strategies for their resolution
  • communicating information, ideas and arguments coherently both orally and in writing
  • self-motivation and reliance: working without direct supervision and managing your time effectively, but also the ability to work with others and discuss ideas in groups.

Some ideas of careers you could explore are:

Translating and Interpreting - many opportunities for translation and interpreting work exist on a freelance basis through specialist agencies that provide language services to clients or through a regular client portfolio built up over a period of time.

Teaching - at degree and postgraduate level, there are opportunities to teach languages of a region as a single discipline or in combination with other areas such as history, politics, literature or translation techniques. There are also many opportunities (often in a freelance capacity) to teach private clients from business professionals requiring language and cultural insight to those with a more recreational interest.

Cultural Sector - opportunities exist to train staff to work successfully across borders and cultures in relation to language, cross-cultural awareness and communication skills. Vacancies are often on a freelance basis and can require language fluency, experience of living and working in a region and in some cases an education or training background.

Tourism - tourist boards (often government funded) which promote tourism overseas also look for region-specific language skills and cultural awareness.

Media - opportunities for journalists with regional knowledge and language skills are available on trade or academic journals dealing with particular regional issues.

Advertising & market research - within a global market, successful advertising campaigns often require adaptation to suit different cultural contexts. Language skills and regional knowledge in an agency environment or in corporate marketing teams are valued. Market research agencies may undertake work overseas for UK clients or carry out research in the UK for those based in specific regions.

Commerce - there are opportunities for those with relevant language skills based in a specific region as well as with organisations with operations in the West. As well as finance and consulting, opportunities exist in areas such as sales and marketing, import and export, conference and event management.

Risk analysis - strategic intelligence consultancies assess the risks flowing from regional political, security and economic developments for financial, corporate and government clients. Requirements often include regional expertise gained through relevant postgraduate study, practical research experience and language skills.

Financial Services - large professional service organisations audit and advise clients with international businesses, which may include the requirement to audit an organisation's business and transactions in all its regional locations. Ratings agencies provide credit risk analysis to clients including that involving political and economic risk. 

NGOs - many NGOs working in international development and in areas such as human rights, health and gender have the region as a focus for their activities.  Your academic studies will provide a foundation for work with them though you will need to combine this with relevant practical experience as a volunteer or intern. 

Bear in mind that it is not only your course that determines your options.  You will need to consider what you are looking for from a career and what you have to offer – what do you value, what interests you and what are your strengths and weaknesses. 

For area specific information, see: 

Where to Start?

More than 60% of graduate vacancies are open to anyone from any discipline. The potential options can feel overwhelming.  Other information and interactive resources you might find useful during your job search include:

  • GoinGlobal is a database of overseas opportunities which you can search anytime, anywhere. It also contains Country Career Guides which gives you tips on CV guidelines, social networking groups and work permit/visa regulations relating to the country you want to work in. Current students can access GoinGlobal via MySOAS Student. Graduates can access GoinGlobal via the Resources on CareersZONE.
  • Working Abroad on Prospects - find out about visas, language requirements, and where to look for jobs abroad
  • GradLink - currently includes sections for China, South-East Asia (ASEAN), the Gulf, Canada, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, India and Bangladesh. The site includes graduate opportunties, advice, news, CV-builder, case studies and more
  • Open Think Tank Directory - information about think tanks and related organisations from around the world