Online Foreign Language Degree Program Options

Get information about online foreign language programs. Read about program requirements, course descriptions, as well as career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

Online foreign language degree programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, although they are uncommon. Master's degree programs in a foreign language are rare. Programs may require students to attend campus for certain components of the curriculum or for testing. Potential students need to make sure they can meet the online platform technological requirements. Some programs are fully online, though others are hybrid.

Bachelor's degree programs in a foreign language may offer a teaching certification track. Bachelor's students must have an associate's degree in a foreign language. Students aspiring to become teachers would have additional requirements, including a student teaching internship that requires in-person presence. Prospective foreign language teachers should check with their program to find out if it pairs them with an internship and prepares them for the state certification examination.

Associate's Degrees in Foreign Language

Students in online foreign language programs learn to speak a new language, a skill that's beneficial in many industries and occupations. A large majority of online foreign language degree programs focus on a particular language, such as German, French, Korean, Spanish, or Chinese. These Associate of Arts degree programs also offer foundational coursework for students planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in a foreign language or a teaching degree.

Program Requirements

The number of credit hours needed to earn an associate's degree in a foreign language is usually around 60 and full-time students could complete one of these programs in two years. Because of the interactive nature of learning a foreign language, a limited number of fully online associate's degree programs exist; some online programs require some in-person instruction or testing. Class lectures and the dissemination of assignments typically occur through podcasts, chat rooms, and discussion boards that a student can access with a computer and an Internet connection. Some courses may require a student to purchase textbooks, and this can be accomplished online or at the campus bookstore.

Common Coursework

Students pursuing an online associate's degree in a foreign language typically need to complete general education requirements as a part of their degree program. English, the arts, history, math, and humanities are some of the courses that may be necessary to fulfill the degree requirements. Foreign language courses include instruction in speaking, reading, and writing the selected language. Common course topics include:

Conversational Speaking

Through progressive levels of courses, students become proficient in speaking and understanding others who speak the foreign language of their choice. Skills in expression and proper pronunciation are emphasized.

Composition and Reading

Class work focuses on grammar, spelling and sentence structure in the writing process. Students also analyze fiction and non-fiction literature and gain insights about the culture.

Foreign Language for Professionals

Students gain professional interaction skills in their foreign language. Language and cultural issues in the industries of business, education, health and legal environments are discussed.

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Bachelor's Degrees in Foreign Language

Online Bachelor of Arts degree programs in a foreign language provide students with bilingual skills that can be utilized in many occupations in business and in the public sector. Some programs can also be combined with teaching certification programs if that is the career path a student wants to follow. As with the associate's degrees, students typically focus their studies on a particular foreign language. For example, programs are available in French or Spanish. Many bachelor's degree programs require or recommend that a student be proficient in the language, and this can be accomplished by earning a foreign language associate's degree or taking several years of a foreign language in high school.

Degree Program Requirements

Students can earn bachelor's degrees in a foreign language by completing about 120 credit hours, and about a quarter of those involve the foreign language chosen. Students may log onto an online portal and participate in class discussions, take exams and turn in assignments. A computer with Internet access and word processing software are basic requirements. If a proctored exam is required, students may find a testing location in their area.

Common Classes

General education requirements are similar to those in the associate's degree program, but additional electives are usually required. While some curriculum in the major includes speaking and writing skills, extra instruction in understanding cultural and historical details of the country of origin is often offered as well. Course topics may include:


Students read and analyze the works of authors well known in the country of study. The use of the language in expressing ideas and emotions in these pieces of literature are examined.

Translation Skills

The techniques of translating are taught and students learn how to use these skills in business and public sector environments. Both written and spoken translations are covered in the curriculum.

Cultural Studies

Students learn about the way of life and cultural traditions of people who speak the language of study. Coursework includes the study of the influence of the arts, history, cinema, written works and geography.

Career Information for Graduates

A graduate of an online foreign language degree program may qualify for a job as an interpreter or translator. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for interpreters and translators was predicted to grow by 29% from 2014-2024 ( Based on May 2015 data from the BLS, the 49,650 translators and interpreters employed in the U.S. earned an average annual salary of $48,360.

Some foreign language graduates pursue a secondary teaching degree and become high school foreign language teachers. The BLS projected a 6% increase in the employment of high school teachers from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported 962,820 secondary teachers working in the U.S., and the average yearly wage earned by these teachers was $60,440.

Continuing Education

All teachers who work in public schools are required to be licensed, including foreign language teachers. Licensure, which is referred to as certification in some states, typically requires one to complete at least a bachelor's degree and teacher training programs, participate in a student teaching experience and pass an exam, according to the BLS.

After obtaining an undergraduate degree in a foreign language, professionals may desire to obtain advanced skills and pursue a master's degree in foreign language studies or foreign language teaching. Some institutions offer these programs online in addition to on-campus programs.

Foreign language degree programs are available fully online, but are not very common and many have on-campus requirements. Programs generally focus on a specific language and train students in reading, writing, and conversation.

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