Bilingual education programs for teachers range from bachelor's to doctoral degree programs. Bachelor's degree candidates complete a teaching practicum. Graduate students complete advanced research, which may culminate in a thesis or dissertation. Programs at the doctoral level take 3 to 4 years to complete. Prerequisites for admission include a master's degree in a related field. Qualified individuals may enhance their educational experiences by participating in teacher exchange programs. Licensure is required to work in this field.
Bachelor's Degree in Bilingual Education
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for professional educators in the U.S. Depending on the subject and grade-level some states require teachers to major in education and in the subject in which they plan to teach. Typically there are no extra requirements for applicants to undergraduate teaching programs. Bilingual education programs are sometimes referred to as English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Typical coursework may address the following topics:
- Diagnostic assessment
- Literacy development
- Language acquisition
- Methods of teaching
Master's Degree in Bilingual Education
Master's degree graduates in bilingual education are able to work with either children or adults. Programs for children learning English are ESL, transitional bilingual education, or dual language immersion programs. Adult English language learning programs are TESOL programs. Master's degree programs typically require the completion of 36 credits. Students preparing to teach in ESL, bilingual, or TESOL programs need to learn about different teaching methods, cultures, and the ability for developing literacy. Typical coursework includes the following:
- Cultural diversity
- Differentiated instruction
- Literacy development
- Research issues
Doctoral Degree in Bilingual Education
Doctoral degree programs prepare students to teach at the postsecondary level and to work in health education and human services. Students focus on theory, pedagogy, and intercultural communication. This level of study focuses on the theories behind teaching, as well as the research methods employed to gather information. Topics of study may include the following:
- Applied linguistics
- Educational administration
- Implications of bilingual education
- Philosophy of education
- Research techniques
Popular Career Options
Teachers trained in bilingual education are prepared for classroom settings. Most commonly, graduates will find work as:
- ESL teachers
- Bilingual classroom teachers
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) teachers
Doctors of bilingual education are suited to teach at the college level. Other job possibilities include educational outreach coordination for governmental organizations in health and human services. Additionally, graduates work anywhere that requires knowledge of instruction and curriculum, such as in textbook writing or education departments.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers who have certification in teaching ESL are expected to be in greater demand than those without such certification (www.bls.gov). The projected rate of increase in demand for kindergarten and elementary school teachers, in general, is 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. High school teachers were also expected to see average growth at 4% during the same decade.
As of May 2020, the BLS reported the median annual pay rate for kindergarten teachers was $57,860. Elementary school educators earned $60,940 per year. Middle school teachers reportedly earned an annual salary of $60,810, while secondary school educators earned $62,870 per year.
Current teachers may take advantage of cultural exchange learning opportunities. According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), individual states offer teacher exchange programs in conjunction with the governments of Spanish speaking countries (www.ed.gov). Agreements in place are through Mexico's Secretariat of Public Education and the Government of Spain. The Mexican exchange program is geared toward educating migrant populations, through efforts like the Binational Migrant Education Program. The Spanish exchange program educates teachers about Spanish culture and history.
Teacher candidates must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree to become a certified teacher in the United States. Each state has its own rules regarding specific teacher preparation and licensure requirements for bilingual educators, which may include oral and written exams in the teacher's target language. Bilingual educators can earn additional professional certifications from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Individuals with an interest in helping others to learn, and with empathy toward those who struggle to understand a language, may wish to pursue a bilingual education program. Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees are available, and should culminate with the student gaining appropriate licensure. As with many career fields, the level of compensation is often directly correlated to the highest degree earned. Graduates often find employment as ESL teachers, bilingual classroom teachers, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) teachers.