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Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

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Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby Unique » Thu 01.10.2008 8:40 pm

Hey guys. Sorry for being long winded. I just thought I'd try to get enough info in so that you all know where I'm coming from.

A little background: I just returned to college after about 2 years of "finding myself" - that's the best way for me to phrase it. Basically, I've been through a few majors and just couldn't see myself in those particular fields for 40 years. I've always had a love of languages, but now I've finally decided to study seriously. So, I found something I am interested in I'm going to be doing my last college years double majoring in Japanese/Linguistics.

Now, for my question. I'm considering things that I'd enjoy doing that would make use of my majors. Of course there are the various English teachers/tutors/converstational/etc jobs or businesses that I could start. But I'm pretty sure Japan is saturated with people who come with dreams of teaching English. Also, I plan studying/teaching in Japan for a while and I haven't given to much serious thought on living there permanently. So, I'm thinking more on things that I can do here in America. I live in Washington, DC which draws a pretty good mix of people so I'm sure there's something I can do after I have graduated and while I'm getting my Masters (I'm not as young anymore and I've acquired a few grown-up responsibilities :/ So I have to keep the money rolling in, hopefully.) In the future I plan on getting my Masters. The U of MD has a Second Language Acquisition program that looks very attractive, too.

Basically, I'm just trying to get a feel for what my occupational outlook will look like. Then, maybe I can do a better job picking my electives/internships/etc.

Any suggestions, comments and such are appreciated.
Thanks!
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby arbalest71 » Tue 01.15.2008 12:11 pm

Unique wrote:
Hey guys. Sorry for being long winded. I just thought I'd try to get enough info in so that you all know where I'm coming from.

A little background: I just returned to college after about 2 years of "finding myself" - that's the best way for me to phrase it. Basically, I've been through a few majors and just couldn't see myself in those particular fields for 40 years. I've always had a love of languages, but now I've finally decided to study seriously. So, I found something I am interested in I'm going to be doing my last college years double majoring in Japanese/Linguistics.

Now, for my question. I'm considering things that I'd enjoy doing that would make use of my majors. Of course there are the various English teachers/tutors/converstational/etc jobs or businesses that I could start. But I'm pretty sure Japan is saturated with people who come with dreams of teaching English. Also, I plan studying/teaching in Japan for a while and I haven't given to much serious thought on living there permanently. So, I'm thinking more on things that I can do here in America. I live in Washington, DC which draws a pretty good mix of people so I'm sure there's something I can do after I have graduated and while I'm getting my Masters (I'm not as young anymore and I've acquired a few grown-up responsibilities :/ So I have to keep the money rolling in, hopefully.) In the future I plan on getting my Masters. The U of MD has a Second Language Acquisition program that looks very attractive, too.

Basically, I'm just trying to get a feel for what my occupational outlook will look like. Then, maybe I can do a better job picking my electives/internships/etc.


Well.. since no-one else has replied I'll take a stab at it. Probably the reason that no-one replied is that a degree in Japanese doesn't qualify you to do anything in particular. Sorry, but that's the case with most non-technical undergraduate degrees. The good news is that the degree is proof that you can get through a 4 year degree program, so it qualifies you to do lots of non-technical stuff.. just nothing specific. If, when you graduate, you can find some field you like, the degree will let you get a job, of some sort, in that field. If you show up on time, are reasonably personable, and can write well enough to fashion reports and memos that don't embarrass your superiors (who are likely to be only semi-literate, so that's not a high bar)... just that could take you a long way, if you know who to step on and who not to. There's nothing wrong with a liberal arts degree- many CEOs graduated with only that and some nice connections- a few did without the connections (but then, a few did without the degree). But it's hard to speculate about that- play it by ear. Knowing a bit of Japanese might come in handy at some point, but showing up and being nicer than I could manage (well, I am in a technical field) is probably enough to set you up, given time and a sharp eye for opportunity.

OTOH, if you want to make a living by knowing Japanese you need to recognize that 1) there are ~160 million people in Japan who know Japanese better than you do and 2) many of them speak English to one degree or another and 3) unless you really just kill yourself in school your Japanese is going to be, at best, so-so when you graduate. And I mean _at best_. Unless you are just maniacal for the next few years. If you are the average Uni student majoring in Japanese at the average Uni you will be about as capable as an apathetic but interested person would be in half the time... sad, but true.

That said, it is possible to make a living solely by knowing Japanese, but you will almost certainly have to go to Japan for a while to do it. For instance- you could become a talent. If you are white and skinny you could arrange to fight Bobby on a television show... I'm sure there would be some interest in that. And, after all, he's no spring chicken these days. Are you quick on your feet, and fast with your hands? Are you a bleeder? Either way... just remember that Japanese talents average around the same take-home as regional Mickey D's managers, and you will also have the qualifications for that.

On a slightly less mean note, it is actually possible to make a good living as a translator. It is not easy- you need to know Japanese well, and be able to write well in English. You also probably need a specialty, if you want to compete against the Indian shops that are springing up... those guys make a lot less than a regional manager at Mickey D's, so you can only compete on quality, against them. Medicine and patents are probably the two best right now, largely because both require domain knowledge and a lot of vocabulary. The downside is that you will need to get the domain knowledge and the vocabulary. If you arrive at the top of that field (which you can do by starting at the bottom as an in-house translator for a Japanese company- [this should only require that you teach for an eikaiwa for a few years], and then kissing posterior until your gums bleed brown) you could easily make 6 figures in US dollars but... it would probably be just as easy to aim at managing a hedge fund.

So that's my advice- go into finance ;). Or, if you really want, translation. Anyway, you have a while to work it out. Basically, the world of work is an imponderable until you get out there- at that point things tend to work themselves out, one way or another.
Last edited by arbalest71 on Tue 01.15.2008 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 01.15.2008 1:31 pm

Since you live IN the DC metro area, you should definately look at doing something that involves Japan. Whether that be Naval Security LIason work, where your Japanese will be used as you work with Japanese Police when a crime has been committed by US citizens/military personel on Japanese soil or when a crime has been committed by Japanese citizens/military on "US soil" (military bases etc).

Or you could just be a contract worker that is required to use their Japanese in many roles for that particular company.

I would research that or at least check out the GS positions available where Japanese is a part of the job.

Link one (Federal Gov't Jobs)

Link two (Job Search USAjobs)

Link three (One Small Planet)

(Edited to shrink the links)
Last edited by two_heads_talking on Tue 01.15.2008 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby arbalest71 » Tue 01.15.2008 3:17 pm

two_heads_talking wrote:
Since you live IN the DC metro area, you should definately look at doing something that involves Japan. Whether that be Naval Security LIason work, where your Japanese will be used as you work with Japanese Police when a crime has been committed by US citizens/military personel on Japanese soil or when a crime has been committed by Japanese citizens/military on "US soil" (military bases etc).

Or you could just be a contract worker that is required to use their Japanese in many roles for that particular company.

I would research that or at least check out the GS positions available where Japanese is a part of the job.


These are also options, and they're sort of what I mean when I say that things tend to work out (or not, but...). But it's important to note that a BA in Japanese _in no way_ qualifies you to do this sort of thing. If anything this is harder than becoming a translator- at least translators aren't generally competing against native speakers. And.. hmm.. what does that pay? Less than a regional manager at... Sorry to harp on the money aspect of things but... when you get to a certain age, if you didn't make some money you had better have found that job _satisfying_.

I'm still leaning toward hedge fund manager- if I could do it all over again, knowing what I know now... definitely hedge fund manager. I imagine there must be some Japanese people with money left from the 80s- you could use your education to expand the range of your fund's fleecing operations... that's what I call a win-win situation.
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 01.15.2008 4:18 pm

The main problem with Japanese is that as arbalest has indicated, no 4-year program will give you enough language ability to any serious jobs regarding Japanese, unless you find some unusually intensive program. If you're serious about getting a Japanese-related job, you need to find some way to continue your studies, preferably in Japan, after you graduate. ("continue your studies" doesn't necessarily mean a class; I lived there for 2 years on the JET program and just studied in my free time.)
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby AJBryant » Tue 01.15.2008 4:32 pm

My major in college was Japanese studies. Took Japanese through the whole time. When I went to Japan to study immersion-style at Takushoku University, I tested into the intermediate (!!!!) level there.

Just sayin'. College classes are a good, structured start -- but they really don't produce fluency.


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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 01.15.2008 5:26 pm

that's why I suggested working for an US company that does some, or most of it's work in Japan. Then, through networking, hardwork and some luck, you just might find a position that allows you to remain in Japan or spend the majority of your time there.
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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby AJBryant » Tue 01.15.2008 5:54 pm

Agreed. Major dittos.


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RE: Jobs for a Japanese/Linguistics major?

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 01.15.2008 10:37 pm

AJBryant wrote:
Just sayin'. College classes are a good, structured start -- but they really don't produce fluency.


Indeed. My friend Majored in Japanese at College. He is pretty sure he failed 2kyuu this year, and can't read a newspaper or watch the morning news. In 2 years in Japan I passed 1kyuu and landed a job as a translator/programmer at a Japanese company.

Classes are a good start, but don't expect them to take you very far.
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