Bilingual Teacher: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for bilingual teachers. Get the facts about education and license requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Bilingual Teacher Do?

A bilingual teacher is an education professional that instructs students in the study of a language that is not their native tongue. They may teach students French, German, Spanish or American Sign Language. They may also teach students English if their native language is different. These teachers foster a learning environment for students to begin mastering words, phrases and concepts in a second language. They may work with students in kindergarten through grade twelve, though some teach at the college level. All bilingual teachers follow curriculum guidelines, develop lesson plans, teach classes, mark student work, update student files, address any disciplinary concerns and meet with parents to discuss their child's progress.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Education, language arts
Licensure/Certification State licensure required for public schools, ESL certification recommended
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all K-12 teachers)*
Median Salary (2015) $51,640 (for all kindergarten teachers)*
$54,890 (for all elementary school teachers)*
$55,860 (for all middle school teachers)*
$57,200 (for all high school teachers)*

Source: *U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Bilingual Teacher?

Bilingual education typically refers to programs for students in kindergarten, primary, middle or secondary school. These programs are taught in English and any number of second languages, from Spanish to French to Mandarin Chinese. Bilingual education programs are usually for students who don't speak English at home. Rather than providing a fully immersive English-language environment, or an environment in which English class is treated like an afterthought, a bilingual teacher provides an environment in which students are immersed in both English and their native tongue.

What Education Do I Need?

If you have a high school diploma or a GED, you must first enroll in a bachelor's degree program in education, language arts or any other related discipline. Upon graduation, it's possible to begin seeking employment or to continue your education in a master's degree program. There are master's degree, doctorate degree and certificate programs available specifically in bilingual education. In addition to gaining classroom experience, a few classes you can expect in such a program are teaching bilingual content, learning diversity and courses directly related to your language specialty.

In addition to earning a bachelor's degree or higher, you'll need to get your teaching license. The requirements to do so vary from state to state, but you can expect exams and a minimum number of classroom hours. To increase your chances of getting hired as well as your potential salary, you could also enroll in a certificate program in ESL (English as a Second Language) education.

What Is the Job Market Like?

Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the number of all types of K-12 teachers would increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is about average for all professions. While the BLS doesn't provide separate job growth statistics for bilingual teachers, it does state that a bilingual specialization is increasingly in demand, according to the most recent data available. Your job prospects as a bilingual teacher should be strong as the volume of non-English-speaking students grows in both private and public schools.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

What you can expect to make depends upon what level you wish to teach and where you're located. The BLS estimated that the median annual wage for kindergarten teachers as of May 2015 was $51,640, while it was $54,890 for elementary school teachers, $55,860 for middle school teachers and $57,200 for high school teachers. What you make also may vary greatly based upon your years of experience and level of education; the top 10% of high school teachers, for example, made more than $91,190 and the bottom 10% made less than $37,800. An example of how location affects wage is that the annual mean wage of high school teachers in Maine was $51,480. At the same time, it was $79,720 in New York.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bilingual teachers share many aspects of their work with preschool teachers and career or technical education teachers. Preschool teachers need an associate's degree, while career and technical education teachers need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. Bilingual teachers, preschool teachers and career and technical education teachers all craft lesson plans, supervise classrooms and teach critical education topics to students. The main difference between a bilingual teacher and a preschool teacher is that preschool teachers work with younger children and teach a number of concepts to students; they do not normally need to be fluent in a second language. Career and technical education teachers do not need to be fluent in a second language either, and they focus on instructing students in vocational skills that lead to direct employment.

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