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Interested in a Career as an Interculturalist?

Whether you are interested in intercultural training, diversity work, international education, global human resources, language education, international development, intercultural conflict mediation, multicultural counseling, or global leadership development, there are increasing opportunities all over the world for intercultural work.

Indeed, careers in intercultural relations exist everywhere, yet it is rare to see them listed under the title of "intercultural specialist." If you are considering a career as an interculturalist and are not yet sure what that might look like, it is often quite useful to make a systematic assessment of your intercultural competencies, transferable skills, and personal preferences.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What transferable skills from your work experience and cultural background might serve you well in a new intercultural context?
  • What significant experiences have you had working across cultures? Living in another culture? 
  • Do you want to work in a domestic diversity context or a global context?
  • Do you want to train, educate, manage, administrate, mediate, or advise others? Do you have existing skills that will advance this ambition?
  • Do you want to find an organization that is already dedicated to intercultural work, or would you prefer to convert an existing job to a more intercultural focus?
  • Which kind of organization do you prefer: academic, corporate, government, religious, healthcare, or social services?
  • Do you want to work independently, or as part of a larger organization?
  • What is most important to you as you seek a new position? Like-minded colleagues? Serving others? Recognition? Money? Making the world a better place? Space for creativity? Autonomy? Travel?
  • Are you changing careers, just starting out, or seeking career enhancement?
  • Do you have or are you willing to get a graduate degree? (Most professionals agree that at a minimum, a master's degree is essential for a career as an interculturalist.)
  • What is it that you do NOT want to do?

What are the growth areas for intercultural work?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "[The] professional and related occupations . . . group, which includes a wide variety of skilled professions, is expected to be the fastest growing major occupational group, at 17 percent, and is projected to add the most new jobs-about 5.2 million." (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition).  In the United States, the fastest growing areas for jobs are health care and technical occupations (increases of 21 percent), with additional increases in community and social services (16 percent), as well as education, training, and library occupations (14 percent growth). Each of these areas has high potential for interculturally competent trainers and managers.

What advice do the experts give?

  • Start adding intercultural components to your existing career to increase your skills, reputation, and experience.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Do volunteer activities to get diverse experience with unfamiliar cultures.
  • Build your knowledge of theory to professionalize your practice.
  • Develop mastery of writing, speaking, training, marketing, etc.
  • Write articles, present at professional conferences - be visible.
  • Participate actively in intercultural professional associations.
  • Network graciously with others.
  • Share your own work generously to enhance the field.
  • Keep up with the quality benchmarks of intercultural work: the most valid literature, the most responsible writers, the most current ethical perspectives, and the most essential issues for various culture groups.

Intercultural Jobs:

Community and Human Services:
social and human services professional
conflict resolution specialist
equal opportunity/affirmative action officer
immigration counselor
refugee counselor
social and human services assistant
mediator or arbitrator
project development coordinator
public housing specialist
workforce developer
reconciliation specialist
community liaison

Corporate Sector:
human resources officer
organization development administrator
management development personnel
curriculum development specialist
international transitions coach
intercultural trainer
diversity trainer
project manager
intercultural marketer
consumer researcher
independent consultant

Health Care:
hospital or clinic administrator
health care educator
intercultural trainer
diversity trainer
human resources officer
language and cultural interpreter

K-12 Education and Outreach:
teacher at an international school
ESL or language teacher
curriculum development specialist
multicultural advisor or counselor
International Baccalaureate teachers and staff
minority student outreach coordinator
resident life personnel
staff of international student exchange organizations
student activities and services staff
youth pastor

Higher Education:
international house staff
ESL or language instructor
director of international programs
education abroad advisor
international student advisor
minority student outreach coordinator
campus minister
student life staff
program coordinator
admissions and recruiting staff

That's not all...
Interculturalists also work as travel writers, sign language educators, journalists, cruise ship directors, and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered advisors. They manage hotels, train diplomats, host talk shows, recruit baseball players, and work with the disabled. Our Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations is an excellent complement to a professional degree such as nursing, law, or business. In an increasingly interconnected world, the skills and knowledge to work effectively with people from many different backgrounds is an asset in any profession.