Chinese Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in Chinese? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and Chinese associate's and bachelor's degrees.
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Study Chinese: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

If you are interested in working in business, education, tourism or travel, an associate's or bachelor's degree in Chinese may be a good fit for you. Earning a degree in Chinese language and literature can make you more desirable to employers who frequently deal with native Chinese speakers, and it can also pave the way toward a new career in translating, interpreting or teaching.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall job outlook for translators and interpreters is very positive. The BLS predicted a much faster than average growth rate of 42% from 2010-2020 for these careers. Also, with on-the-job training, having Chinese language skills can provide you with an opportunity to work in a variety of other fields.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in learning beginner's-level Chinese to help increase job prospects in various fields. People who want to speak Chinese fluently or work as translators or teachers of the language.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Flight attendant ($38,000)*
- Customer service representative ($30,000)**
- Translator or interpreter ($44,000)*
- High school teacher ($54,000 state certification required)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credit hours in Chinese language and general studies coursework - Roughly 120 credit hours in Chinese language and general studies coursework
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability None found at this time None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures). Source: **Salary.com (2011 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Chinese

Associate's degree programs in Chinese language and literature are designed to introduce you to elementary- and intermediate-level dialects, such as Cantonese or Mandarin. An associate's degree in Chinese will not make you fluent, but it will provide you with a strong grasp of the language and allow you to engage in basic conversation. Typically, an associate's program is the first step toward continuing education in Chinese language and literature.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Holding an associate's degree in Chinese could give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs against applicants who only have a high school diploma and are not partially bilingual.
  • An associate's program will allow you to test out and begin learning the Chinese language without the long-term commitment of a more advanced degree.
  • An associate's program will give you the skills you need to engage in basic conversation with Chinese speakers.

Cons

  • You could learn the same basic conversational skills from a language program or through private lessons outside of a college.
  • Associate's programs do not prepare you for any specific careers.
  • Associate's programs in Chinese are not very common, so you will not have many schools to choose from.

Courses and Requirements

The coursework you will complete in an associate's-level Chinese program will help introduce you to the basic foundations of the language. You will learn proper pronunciation, common words, basic reading and writing and simple sentence structure. Programs typically give you the option to study either Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese. Some general courses you might take include:

  • Elementary Chinese
  • Intermediate Chinese
  • Conversational Cantonese
  • Advanced Cantonese reading and writing
  • Elementary Mandarin

Online Availability

At this time, there are no online associate's-level programs in Chinese available. Depending on the school you attend, you may be able to arrange to take some of the general studies coursework for your degree through correspondence. As more schools begin incorporating technology and distance learning options into their curriculum, online programs in Chinese may become available.

Get Ahead With This Degree

Taking private lessons or engaging in tutoring with a fluent speaker outside of class will increase your fluency. The more fluent you are, the more desirable you will be to potential employers. According to the BLS, hospitals, sporting events centers and community organizations offer volunteer opportunities in translation and interpreting. Volunteering will also give you relevant experience to add to your resume after graduation.

Bachelor's Degrees in Chinese

Bachelor's degree programs in Chinese language and literature focus more on fluency than associate's programs. In a bachelor's program, you will study dialects in depth as well as the history and culture of China. Earning your bachelor's degree in Chinese will prepare you for a diverse set of careers in fields such as translation, interpreting, education, tourism, business and more. Some sample work settings include hospitals, schools, courtrooms, travel/tourism centers, community centers and business corporations. Even with a degree, you may compete with individuals who are fluent for positions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Diverse work settings are available to people with this degree.
  • A bachelor's degree program may make you fluent in Chinese.
  • A 4-year degree will provide more time to master pronunciation alongside fluent speakers.

Cons

  • Possessing this degree will not guarantee you a job working in any field other than translation/interpreting.
  • Language programs and private lessons could provide you with the same knowledge without having to pay tuition costs.
  • Though more common than associate's programs, bachelor's programs are still rare and you may feel like you do not have many options when researching schools.

Courses and Requirements

The courses you will take in a bachelor's-level Chinese program are designed to provide you with a solid grasp of the advanced elements of the language. You will take intensive and advanced spoken language courses in addition to classes that cover specific components of Chinese such as syntax and sentence structure. Other courses include history and cultural studies classes to help you better understand where the language comes from. As with associate's programs, you may study specific dialects. Some general courses you might take include:

  • Intensive elementary Chinese
  • Introduction to Chinese linguistics
  • Structure of Chinese
  • Culture of ancient China
  • Advanced reading in modern Chinese

Online Availability

As with associate's programs, there are currently no bachelor's-level Chinese language and literature programs available online. You still might be able to complete some general studies coursework online depending on what distance learning options are offered by your school.

Stand Out With This Degree

Participating in a study abroad program for a semester will enable you to complete a portion of your studies in China. Learning the language in China will greatly benefit you as you will be able to learn from and interact with native speakers on a daily basis. This could help improve your pronunciation and overall understanding of the language and will allow you to practice speaking Chinese in a natural setting outside of a classroom.

Translators and interpreters are not required to hold any kind of certification, but voluntary certification from the American Translators Association could make you more desirable to potential employers. Earning certification immediately after graduation might increase your job prospects.

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