Job Options for Fluent Chinese Speakers

Chinese studies is generally an undergraduate or graduate-level degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Those who are fluent in Chinese can consider several career options. They include being a postsecondary Chinese language teacher, working as a translator, or being a Chinese studies librarian. In addition to being fluent in Chinese these careers require postsecondary studies.

Essential Information

Speakers fluent in both English and Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) can work as translators, teachers or researchers in academia, government or the private sector. In our increasingly global economy, there are many career opportunities for bilingual Chinese speakers with formal instruction and excellent communication skills.

Careers Postsecondary Chinese Language Teachers Translators Chinese Studies Librarians
Required Education Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (for postsecondary foreign language teachers) 29% (for all interpreters and translators) 2% (for all librarians)
Median Salary (2015)* $61,380 (for all postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers) $44,190 (for all interpreters and translators) $56,880 (for all librarians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

After obtaining a bachelor's degree, fluent Chinese speakers may become postsecondary Chinese language teachers or translators. Those who want to continue their education at the master's level can work as Chinese studies librarians. Read on to learn about the requirements for each of these careers.

Chinese Translator or Interpreters

A Chinese translator or interpreter's job is to translate from Chinese to English and English to Chinese. Interpreters speak from one language to the next, and translators communicate different languages through writing. Both positions can be found in the public and private sector. They work for governments and corporations. Most interpreters or translators have at least a bachelor's degree, but the most important prerequisite is to have a firm grasp of both languages.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interpreters and translators earned a median salary of $44,190 in 2015. The projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is 29%, which is much faster than average. Growth is driven by the large number of non-English speakers and an increased globalization.

Chinese Language Teachers

Many colleges and universities that offer a major or graduate degree in Chinese studies also offer teacher certification. These programs may require a bachelor's degree in either education or Chinese linguistics prior to admission. Certification typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Some programs include formal studies of Chinese literature and may also include a teaching practicum.

Graduates of these teacher certification programs are qualified to teach Chinese in community colleges, public schools, language institutions, after-school programs and within corporate settings.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Postsecondary foreign language teaching jobs are expected to increase 11% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. Postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers earned a median salary of $61,380 in 2015, per the BLS.

Chinese Studies Librarians

Another somewhat specialized academic career for Chinese speakers is librarianship at a university or other library that maintains a Chinese studies collection. Chinese studies librarians use electronic resources, some of which are in the Chinese language, to assist with research, index and compile collections, and interact with students, faculty and other library patrons who speak Chinese and English.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS estimates that librarian jobs will increase 2% from 2014-2024. The median salary for this career was $56,880 in 2015, reported the BLS.

Postsecondary Chinese language teachers instruct adults learning the language. Chinese studies librarians maintain a Chinese studies collection, while interpreters in the field translate from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese. Job growth varies greatly among these professions; employment of interpreters is forecast to grow rapidly, while positions for librarians are expected to experience slower-than-average growth.

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