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Guide to studying Chinese

China is one of the world's superpowers, so knowledge of the nation and language could be an ideal start for a prosperous international career.

Girl writing Chinese characters on a blackboard


  1. What's Chinese?

  2. Why study Chinese?

  3. What jobs can you get as a Chinese graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's Chinese?

Chinese is a group of similar, but often mutually exclusive, languages spoken primarily in South and East Asia. Between 15-20% of the world's population speaks Chinese as their first language.

Courses in Chinese can often be a study of the culture and history of China alongside learning the language (often Mandarin or Cantoneseone), which is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. 

Why study Chinese?

It provides a great insight into the Chinese nation, including areas such as business, economy, geography, history, language, law, politics, religion, media and culture. Many courses offer tuition both to native speakers and those who want to learn one of the planet's most spoken languages.

Read our five reasons to study Chinese for more information on why you might choose this subject area.

 School teacher helping young boy writing chinese on chalkboard

What jobs can you get as a Chinese graduate?

Chinese degrees teach valuable transferable skills, such as presentation, research and communication, on top of knowledge of a second language.

Particular job roles include archivist, teacher, interpreter, journalist, press officer, sales executive and solicitor.

Several professional organisations offer specialised positions for Chinese graduates, such as GCHQ.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Chinese have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Chinese students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

For Chinese-related courses, you may need a GCSE in a modern foreign language.

Grades and other entry requirements vary at each institution. So always confirm with the particular university/course you’re interested in.

What degrees can you study?

  • BA Chinese
  • BA Chinese Studies
  • BA Mandarin Chinese
  • BA Chinese as dual honours

How will you be assessed?

Most courses will require you to attend classes each week in the form of lectures, seminars, tutorial discussions and student presentations. The exact mixture of activities varies somewhat from course to course.

At master’s level, there’s a particular emphasis on contributions and presentations. You'll be expected to read extensively and prepare for each class in advance. 

Exams can be both written and oral.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Examples of taught MAs and research degrees at postgraduate level include a straight MA in Chinese Studies, as well as in Modern Chinese Studies, Contemporary Chinese Studies and English-Chinese Translation.

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