The Department of French and Italian provides instruction in the languages, literatures, cinema and cultures of France, Italy, and other areas where these languages are spoken, including Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

French and Italian majors acquire in-depth knowledge of the chosen language and culture, and receive a broad-based liberal arts education, learning practical, critical and analytic skills essential for problem solving and effective interaction in the world beyond the university. Proficiency in one or more foreign languages is an asset to many professions and provides an enriching understanding of our diverse world.

I have literally put my French degree to work as an employee of now three different French companies. Being able to communicate in the language of Moliere both verbally and in writing with my French managers has served me well. I will always be grateful to my CU French professors who taught me, challenged me, and yes, entertained me."

— Nick De Toustain ('93)

Studies shows that, beyond acquiring a new language, learning French or Italian develops skills needed in many professional contexts. Both French and Italian are analytical languages that structure thought, develop critical thinking abilities and help increase understanding of one's culture. 

French is the second truly global language after English and opens doors to international business, relations, law and diplomacy. Aside from being the traditional home of high fashion, avant-garde cinema and arts, France is currently a leader on the world economic scene and is at the forefront of areospace engineering, medical and climate research. It is also influential on the international diplomatic scene and French speaking skills are a must for all those working in international organizations such as the EU, the UN or NATO. See this article, 10 Good Reasons for Learning French.

The major in French is built around a series of stimulating courses allowing students to acquire language skills, study literary works that have helped to shape western and Francophone culture and develop an in-depth knowledge of French thought. After successfully completing the program, students should feel at ease with the language and culture of France, be able to apply your knowledge in other areas of the humanities or social sciences and feel comfortable travelling or working in French-speaking countries.

The major in Italian, on the otherhand, will provide students with modern Italian language skills suitable for everyday life. By combining courses offered through the department with Italian interest courses from other departments, including cinema studies and moving image arts, fine arts, humanities and history, the program promotes an understanding of the role of the Italian literary and cultural tradition within western civilization. Italy is the cradle of the Renaissance and continues to project a powerful formative influence into our own day. Thus, in addition to supplying the language skills necessary for advanced professional study and specialization, the Italian major will introduce students to a rich literary, artistic and intellectual history at the roots of the modern world. The University of Colorado at Boulder is one of the few schools in the Rocky Mountain region to offer an undergraduate major in Italian.

While fostering historical perspective and the awareness of cultural difference, a French or Italian degree also increases our students mastery of critical skills and analytical abilities. The emphasis we place on writing, textual analysis and the development of historical awareness as well as cultural difference helps our majors and minors acquire skills essential to careers in academia and beyong. Journals such as Newsweek have reported that a French degree was amongst the most 10 useful degrees for the acquisition of such skills. And Inside Higher Ed. recently wrote that French Majors were ahead of their peers in analytical, writing and critical thinking skills.) See the article Do Majors Matter and 13 Most Useful College Majors.

The Department of French and Italian contains a number of research areas stretching across the different program, but most research focuses on the French and Italian language, literature and culture.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree from the Department of French and Italian and interested in research or scholarly work, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • Because the most satisfying way to learn language is to live it, students of French or Italian should strongly consider studying abroad. For students of French, it is possible to study for a summer in Annecy, France or Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada; for a semester or year in Rennes, Strasbourg, or Paris; and for a semester in Toulouse, France, or in Belgium, or in one of several countries in French-speaking Africa. Italian students can study for a semester or a year in Florence, Perugia, or Ferrara. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.
  • Students will have access to state-of-the-art language instruction technology at the Anderson Language Technology Center (ALTEC).
  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • French or Italian majors may choose to seek honors in their field, which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. Honors work involves a senior honors research project.  Look into this program early, as it involves securing a faculty sponsor and developing an individual project.
  • A distributed studies major is available in both French and Italian, as well as  teacher licensure. 
  • In addition to its regular course offerings, the department frequently invites lecturers to speak on critical and literary problems, and visiting professors to teach seminars on special topics. There are regular meetings of foreign language conversation tables and clubs.

A degree in French or Italian will prepare you for a wide variety of career choices in fields such as interpreting, translating, and foreign language teaching. It also serves as an auxiliary skill in business, industry and commerce, the civil service (both foreign and domestic), law, library science, journalism, radio and television, the film industry, publishing, science and social sciences, travel and tourism industries, and religious, health and social service agencies in the United States and abroad. 

Many French and Italian majors at CU Boulder choose to pursue another BA in International Studies, History, Philosophy or the Social Sciences along with their French degree. Majoring in French or Italian or adding the French or Italian major to another area of study has led many of our recent graduates to careers in publishing, editing, education, arts management, philanthropy, public health or international marketing. 

If you plan to continue on to graduate studies, the major provides an excellent background for business, political science, history, law, management, journalism, art history, literary criticism, library science and international relations.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • The average expected salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in French is $60,000; and
  • The average expected salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in Italian is $54,000.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for language translators and interpreters will be 18 percent, which is “much faster” than average job growth.

French Payscale

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for French graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school.

Italian Payscale

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for Italian graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school.

At CU Boulder, French and Italian graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in these disciplines earn an estimated annual salary of $92,582 and $79,821, respectively, based on a pool of 183 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. Those amounts, however, are both above and below the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

Many alumni of the department have gone on to fruitful careers credit their knowledge of French for their success and mention both their language skills and multi-cultural knowledge as a major asset. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Emma Carroll ('15) is an English as a second language instructor, Peace Corps, Namibia.
  • Maiji Castro ('16) is pursuing a master’s degree in Art and Museum Studies, Georgetown University; in 2018 she will continue her studies at Sotheby’s Auction House, London.
  • Nick De Toustaint ('93) has worked in Paris, London and New York for Valtech, a French IT consulting company, French software company LTU Technologies and Getty Images. He now works in New York for the French software company Sinequa.
  • Kenneth Landers ('16) works in philanthropic support, Harvard University.