A Bilingual Teacher Career: Pros and Cons
Bilingual teachers have the option of teaching English to non-native speakers, teaching a foreign language to English speakers, or both. Read on to explore the pros and cons of working as a bilingual teacher.
|Pros of a Bilingual Teacher Career|
|May have 2-month summer vacation*|
|Opportunity to help others*|
|May work with many different populations in varied settings*|
|Educational programs are widely available*|
|Cons of a Bilingual Teacher Career|
|Additional work outside of normal school day is typically required*|
|Master's degree may be necessary*|
|Employment depends on government budgets*|
|Job may be emotionally demanding*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a bilingual teacher, there are two paths for you to follow. In the first, you'll teach English to non-native speakers. You may work with adults or children and can be employed in the U.S. or abroad. In the second type of position, you'll teach a foreign language to English speakers. While you may instruct adults in this career path, it's likely that you'll work in a typical classroom setting.
Job Description and Duties
Bilingual teachers share many of the same duties as traditional teachers. They prepare lesson plans, instruct students, enforce classroom rules, communicate with parents, prepare students for standardized tests and grade papers. Bilingual teachers who work with non-native English speakers may teach in a foreign language and work with students to improve their English-speaking abilities. Bilingual teachers who teach a foreign language to native English-speakers often focus their lessons on the culture, grammar and vocabulary of the language they teach.
Salary and Job Growth
Teacher salaries vary by grade level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in May 2014, the average yearly salary for elementary school teachers was about $56,000. Middle school teachers earned around $57,000, and high school teachers made about $59,000. While there is no available salary data for bilingual teachers specifically, PayScale.com reported that most elementary and high school teachers in the 10th-90th percentile with a bilingual education certification earned $29,000-$78,000 yearly in September 2015.
Projected outlook for teachers also varies by grade level. The BLS reports that demand for elementary school teachers and middle school teachers will increase by 12% from 2012-2022. Outlook for high school teachers will reach 6% during the same period, while adult literacy teachers will see an increase of 9%. The national average for all careers is 11%. Bilingual teachers, especially those fluent in Spanish, may experience additional demand due to an increase in the Spanish speaking population. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2009, 12% of the U.S. population over the age of 5 spoke Spanish in the home.
What Are the Requirements?
To begin working as a bilingual teacher, you must have a bachelor's degree. You may choose to major in education or a foreign language. If you choose the latter option, you'll need to enroll in a teacher preparation program. Coursework for bilingual teachers should include multi-culture studies, bilingual curriculum design and child development. Student teaching or another form of fieldwork is generally included in undergraduate programs. To teach in a public school, you'll also need a license from your state. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but generally require a bachelor's degree, some form of supervised teaching and, in some cases, a standardized test. Some states require teachers to continue their formal education after obtaining a license by entering a master's degree program.
Bilingual teachers generally need certification above and beyond that of traditional teachers. Although qualifications vary by state, most require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, a teaching license and experience teaching in their foreign language. Bilingual teachers must also pass some combination of written and oral exams.
What Employers Are Looking for
While education and licensure requirements are universal, employers also seek candidates who are strong communicators, willing to work in specific settings and committed to helping students advance. The job postings below are from May 2012 and include additional information about the qualities that employers were seeking.
- In Oregon, a bilingual substitute teacher is needed. Applicants must maintain a positive, child-centered attitude, be willing to work with parents and actively involve community members in their educational programs.
- A charter school in Washington, D.C., seeks a bilingual teacher to work in an urban setting. Applicants must have an interest in working with underserved children and a track record of excellent academic outcomes.
- In Las Vegas, foreign language and bilingual teachers are needed. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in education and an interest in working within a growing district.
- In Illinois, dual language teachers are needed to teach English and Spanish in a public school district. Candidates must have state required endorsements and the ability to speak, read and write both Spanish and English.
How Can I Stand Out?
Know Where Jobs Are Available
While fluent bilingual skills will set you apart from the competition, you can further benefit from knowing where jobs are available. Outlook for teachers varies by region due to changes in population growth. Student enrollment is expected to grow fastest in the South and West. In the Midwest, enrollment is expected to maintain a steady growth rate. In the Northeast, it is projected to decline. Teachers will be in greater demand in urban and rural areas than in suburban districts. If you're willing to relocate or are already living in a region with a promising outlook, your chances of finding employment will increase.
Other Careers to Consider
If you want to help people overcome challenges, you may enjoy a career as a social worker. In this career, you'll help individuals cope with everyday problems and manage behavioral and emotional issues. To become a social worker, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and a license. Outlook is projected to grow faster than average, at a rate of 25%, from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the average yearly salary for social workers was about $44,000, according to the BLS.
If you'd like to teach at a higher level, you may be interested in working as a postsecondary instructor. In this position, you'll work in a college, university or vocational setting, teaching courses above the high school level. The BLS reported that the average yearly salary for postsecondary foreign language teachers was about $67,000 in May 2011. The salary for postsecondary teachers, in general, was about $74,000. Outlook for this field is expected to reach 17% from 2010-2020. Educational requirements vary for this career but range from a master's degree to a Ph.D.