- With experience become a PA or office manager
- Some jobs may involve travel overseas
- Requires good organisational skills, as well as accuracy and attention to detail
Bilingual secretaries or personal assistants (PAs) carry out administrative work; if you work using two or more foreign languages, you might be known as a multilingual secretary or PA.
The role can also include some duties specific to the sector your employer works in: for example, if you work for a manufacturing company, your role might include some quality assurance or auditing work. It’s for this reason that many bilingual or multilingual secretaries end up specialising in a particular sector or industry.
- Translating documents and letters
- Writing letters, emails and reports in a foreign language
- Translating or summarising articles from foreign journals
- Speaking in a foreign language on the phone or face-to-face
- Interpreting at meetings
You may also have general administrative duties, including:
- Acting as a personal assistant (PA) to a manager
- Organising meetings
- Making appointments and keeping a diary
- Arranging travel and accommodation for business trips, filing, typing and photocopying
- Updating computer databases
You'll most likely work in an office, and sometimes travel to meetings. You could work in the public or private sector, in industries such as manufacturing, finance, law or consultancy.
This role would be ideal for someone with a flair for languages, excellent communication skills and sensitivity to other cultures.
There are no set entry requirements for this role, however, it could help you if you have a degree in modern languages or languages combined with business studies, although this is not essential.
Some employers may ask for GCSEs, but most will be more interested in your IT, telephone and office skills than formal qualifications.
Completing a recognised qualification in administration or office skills may improve your job prospects. Colleges offer a wide range of full-time and part-time courses. Relevant subjects include: business administration, typing, audio transcription, computer skills and shorthand.
You'll need to be fluent in at least one foreign language, gained from a relevant qualification or experience living abroad. Most businesses look for bilingual secretaries who can speak a European language like French, German, Spanish and Italian. Other languages like Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic are also growing in demand.
You could join the Chartered Institute of Linguists, for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
You could also get into this job through a business administrator advanced apprenticeship and combine it with your language skills to find work.
Alternatively, you can apply to companies directly if you have some of the relevant skills and knowledge required for this role. You'll need at least 1 A level or equivalent in your second language unless it's your native tongue or you became fluent by living abroad. Employers may also expect you to have GCSEs or relevant office skills and experience.
With experience, you could be promoted to PA or office manager.
You could move into translating, interpreting or international sales and marketing or public relations.