Why Majoring in Chinese Could Shape Your Future

China’s economy is the second-largest on the planet.

In 2019, there were 2.2 million foreign-invested enterprises in China, and the number of registered foreign employees, most of them from the US, UK, France, Japan, and South Korea, exceeded 745,000.

Are you thinking about having a global career?

Consider majoring in Chinese.

The Chinese major is a good major for undergraduate students who wish to enjoy increased competitiveness in the job market by being able to speak a second language fluently.

It’s not the most popular major because American colleges confer only more than 700 Chinese degrees per year.

There are two Chinese major options:

  • Chinese language
  • Chinese language and literature

Which one you should go for will depend on your academic and career goals, so make sure you have everything planned carefully before deciding to commit to being a Chinese major.

learn chinese

Is the Chinese Major Hard?

What makes majoring in Chinese hard is that you must learn to speak Chinese.

According to the Foreign Service Institute, Chinese is a level IV language — English speakers may find it an extremely difficult foreign language to learn as it has nothing in common with English.

For instance, the English alphabet has only 26 letters.

On the other hand, Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet.

Instead, it has characters — and there are over 50,000 Chinese characters!

Estimates say that educated Chinese know about 10,000 of those characters on average, although having an idea of only around 3,000 of them is usually enough to allow you to read a Chinese newspaper without much trouble.

Majoring in Chinese language is hard, but majoring in Chinese language and literature is harder.

How to Choose Between Chinese Language and Chinese Language and Literature

Deciding whether you should major in Chinese language or Chinese language and literature requires establishing your academic goal for going to college to earn an undergraduate degree in Chinese.

It also requires determining your professional goal.

Consider majoring in Chinese language if you are aiming for proficiency in speaking Chinese.

It’s a great major for students who are looking to work for an international company, particularly a Chinese one, someday or travel abroad and establish a career where Chinese is a widely spoken language.

You may also major in Chinese language if you are planning on a career in:

  • Translating
  • Interpreting
  • Teaching
  • Writing

Meanwhile, a major in Chinese language and literature may be a better option for you if you intend to learn the language and also obtain a deeper understanding of its cultural and historical context.

It’s the one to consider if you want to have career opportunities in:

  • Research
  • Academia
  • Business

Both can be rewarding majors for as long as your choice aligns with your career path.

speak chinese

What Skills Do You Need to Major in Chinese?

Just because you want to speak a foreign language doesn’t mean Chinese is the right major for you.

It’s of utmost importance to have the interest and passion to learn Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.

Learning a foreign language effectively requires you to:

  • Focus
  • Listen well
  • Be attentive
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Organize your thoughts well
  • Collaborate with your classmates

You will need more skills majoring in Chinese language and literature than the Chinese language because of the additional courses, including history-related ones, but the payoff is bigger, especially if your career aspiration calls for them.

Majoring in Chinese is easier said than done because learning Chinese involves the following:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing

If you focus on only one, the rest fall behind, keeping you from mastering the Chinese language.

On the flip side, majoring in Chinese also equips you with skills that will help you thrive in an international setting and enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling global career.

Here are what being a Chinese major can add to your resume:

  • Ability to clearly communicate
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Collaborative skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Decision-making abilities
  • Information analysis and processing

Chinese Degree Colleges and Salaries

You can learn how to speak Chinese by watching YouTube video tutorials.

You can also do so by installing language-learning apps on your smartphone.

However, none of these approaches allows you to earn a bachelor’s degree, an academic qualification that makes your knowledge and skills official and accepted in the professional world.

Best Colleges for Chinese Majors

As mentioned, Chinese is not one of the most popular majors — only 700+ degrees are conferred yearly.

Due to this, you may have to scour the internet to be able to build a college list containing schools offering a Chinese major whose curriculum, faculty members, and resources are top-notch.

Here are some of the top colleges with Chinese language and literature programs, Niche says:

Stanford UniversityStanford, CA
Harvard UniversityCambridge, MA
Dartmouth CollegeHanover, NH
Georgetown UniversityWashington, DC
Washington University in St. LouisSaint Louis, MO
Pomona CollegeClaremont, CA
University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA
University of Notre DameNotre Dame, IN
Williams CollegeWilliamstown, MA
Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore, PA
Tufts UniversityMedford, MA
Emory UniversityAtlanta, GA
Wellesley CollegeWellesley, MA
Boston UniversityBoston, MA
Chinese tutor

Career Opportunities and Salaries

Many Chinese companies are opening all over the planet.

Similarly, many individuals with college degrees from various international schools fly to China to become a part of the massive and unstoppable workforce of the world’s second-largest economy.

The following are just some of the career prospects for Chinese majors in America:

Job TitleAverage Salary Per Year
Flight Attendant$85,531
Content Creator$79,528
English Teacher$75,000
Customer Service Representative$38,442
Mandarin Tutor$36,470

Read Next: Is Japanese a Good Major?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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