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Career Information for a Degree in a Second Language

Degree programs in second languages typically cover applied linguistics, English grammar and teaching methods. Find out about career options, degree requirements, job growth and salary info for second language degree program graduates.

Becoming fluent in a second language can lead to a career as a translator or an interpreter, or you can choose to pass on your knowledge by teaching it to others. All of these options require at least a bachelor's degree in the language of your choice.

Essential Information

Research career information for a second language degree. Learn about the job duties, education requirements and job prospects to make an informed decision about becoming an interpreter, translator or teacher.

Career Titles Interpreters and Translators Teachers (Secondary School)
Education Requirements Variable; a bachelor's degree in a language or a specific field of study along with fluency in at least two languages; interested students can take American Sign Language classes A bachelor's or master's degree with a major in English, foreign language or a related discipline
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 29%* 6%*
Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $44,190* $57,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Once a student has successfully completed the coursework for a second language degree, he or she can follow a number of career paths. Some of these choices include interpreters/translators and teachers.

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters translate speakers' words from one language to another, while translators translate written words. A bachelor's degree is a typical requirement for jobs in this field, as is fluency in another language. Work experience is also important; aspiring interpreters and translators might want to consider offering their services as volunteers or interns to get their foot in the door.

Teachers

Teachers typically help students learn a second language at the high school level, although some elementary and middle schools also offer foreign language programs. For positions in public schools, state certification or licensure is required. This process usually entails completing a bachelor's degree and teacher training program with an internship component.

Second language teachers can also work in postsecondary settings. A master's degree is required for positions with community and technical colleges. Someone interested in teaching at a 4-year college or university will likely need a doctorate.

Earning a Second Language Degree

Second language degree programs teach people to speak, read and write such languages as Spanish, German, Chinese or French. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available, and students on both program levels explore the history and culture of their choice languages. They also might review works of literature in their original language, study current world events and/or live abroad for total language immersion.

Graduate programs often include additional coursework in second language pedagogy. Students who complete second language degree programs can find employment in the public relations or legal fields, hospitality industry or media, to name a few.

Salary and Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for interpreters and translators were expected to grow 29% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This above-average job outlook is partly due to the increasing frequency of international business transactions. As of May 2015, interpreters and translators earned an annual median salary of $44,190.

The BLS indicated that secondary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,200 as of May 2015. A six percent increase in employment opportunities was predicted for teachers during the decade spanning 2014-2024.

Aspiring interpreters or translators would do well to seek internships or volunteer placements during or after their undergraduate work, in order to access better job opportunities. However, this field is growing rapidly with plenty of jobs available. If you prefer to teach at a secondary school, you'll need to complete teacher training and become licensed in your state.


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