What language skills are needed in public service and law enforcement in the United States and abroad?

What language skills are needed in public service and law enforcement in the United States and abroad? was originally published on College Recruiter.

Language Proficiency Definitions Table

When applying for federal positions, it is essential to remember that the federal government is the largest employer in the United States, and the opportunities stretch across the globe. With between 350 and 430 languages spoken in the United States of America, the Translators without Borders says we are one of the most linguistically diverse countries. With all the languages spoken in the United States, there is a strong need for individuals with advanced language skills. If you can speak, write, and read any language, consider the service you can to the public, in foreign service, or law enforcement. When selecting your language skills in the resume builder in USAJOBS.GOV, you identify your skill level in each as none, novice, intermediate, and advanced. The Language Specialist Series is GS-1040 and starts as a Translator, grade 05, and can end at grade 13 as an Interpreter. You can find the qualifications for this job series on The Office of Personnel Management website.

Foreign language skills are especially needed in law enforcement positions across America. The skill is so valuable in federal agencies that a Foreign Language Award is given to officers whose job responsibilities involve substantial foreign language skills.  This cash award is only approved for LEO positions. The languages spoken the most in the United States are Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog, French, Vietnamese, German, Korean, Russian, Italian, and Portuguese. With the rise of languages being spoken, there is an increase in Language barriers between the public and law enforcement. One of the programs created by the U.S. government to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages is the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program. It is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. 

The Center for Immigration Studies shared that based on their analysis of the 2018 Census, 67.3 Million in the United States Speak a foreign language at home. If you are a native speaker, consider advancing your language skills by using government-funded programs. The best languages to learn for government jobs abroad are Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Urdu. Language-designated positions at the State Department have been left vacant due to the lack of qualified personnel. There are government grants and even full-tuition fellowships for those studying these priority languages. These skills are especially needed for the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, State Departments, and Homeland Security. Each agency has additional information about its specific programs on its websites.

Hope White of Hopeful Speaking and Consulting, LLC is a business consultant, career coach, public speaker, trainer, veterati mentor, and member of College Recruiter’s Expert Panel. Her tagline is “Hopeful Speaking leads to Hopeful Thinking, and Hopeful Actions.” Sharing this message by coaching individuals and providing career development strategies for federal employees, and organizations is her mission. 

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