Bilingual Teacher Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a bilingual teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Bilingual teachers are in high demand. For those interested in a career teaching a foreign language or English as a Second Language, they must start with a bachelor's degree and in many cases will be required to have a master's to go along with their required certification/licensure.

Essential Information

Individuals skilled in a foreign language who have a passion for helping others learn might want to consider becoming a bilingual teacher. Teachers in this field need at least a bachelor's degree and must pass a teacher certification exam. Bilingual certification also might be an option.

Bilingual teachers typically have two paths available to them: teaching a foreign language to English-speaking students or teaching English to non-native speakers. Either way, bilingual teachers carry out many of the traditional duties of teachers, including planning lessons and evaluating student performance. These teachers often have the added challenge of acclimating students to a new culture.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (high school/secondary teachers); 7% (adult literacy teachers)
Median Salary (2015)* $57,200 (high school/secondary teachers); $50,280 (adult literacy teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements

Many educational options are available to teachers, depending on their areas of specialization. To teach in a public school, most states require teachers to complete a teacher training program and obtain teacher certification.

Many teachers who specialize in teaching a foreign language to English-speaking students majored or minored in that language themselves. Others are native speakers with a strong grasp of grammar fundamentals. In addition to language, these teachers have often studied the history and culture of the language's country of origin, which they typically include in their lessons.

For those who intend to specialize in English as a second language (ESL) teaching, universities offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in bilingual and multilingual education. Other training programs are designed for professionals with degrees in other areas who wish to transition to bilingual teaching careers.

Some states offer additional credentialing for bilingual teachers. In Illinois, for example, a teacher can gain bilingual certification by showing previous experience teaching bilingual programs and taking specific coursework in bilingual education.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for high school or secondary school teachers in all subjects were expected to increase by about 6% between 2014 and 2024. Though data for bilingual teachers specifically was not available, the BLS cites foreign language as an area of study for which public school districts have difficulty finding qualified teachers. The number of students in the K-12 age group who don't speak English is also increasing, providing qualified bilingual teachers with strong job prospects.

Given the United States' trend toward demographic transformation, there will continue to be high demand for bilingual teachers. Jobs for adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers, like those who specialize in ESL, were predicted to increase by 7% over the same 10-year period, with the highest growth expected in states with large immigrant populations (www.bls.gov). Opportunities also abound for those who wish to teach English as a second language in foreign countries.

A continuing increase in immigrant populations in the U.S. has increased the need for bilingual instructors at the public school level and in adult literacy courses. Those interested in teaching need to start with a degree in ESL or possibly a foreign language depending on what they want to teach. All teachers must be licensed and in many states this may require an extra year of school or a master's.

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