What Are the Requirements to Be a Bilingual Teacher?

Bilingual teachers are fluent in a foreign language. They may teach elementary or secondary school students who speak Spanish, Chinese or another foreign language. You can earn an endorsement or certification to be a bilingual teacher through colleges and universities around the U.S. Read on to learn more about the requirements to be a bilingual teacher, what you will learn, and potential job prospects. Schools offering Teaching ESL degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do I Need to Do to be a Bilingual Teacher?

In most cases, you need to first finish your bachelor's degree program and earn a state teaching license or certificate. Some bilingual teacher training programs will allow you to enroll while you're earning your bachelor's or master's degree, but many only accept applicants who are already teaching in classrooms. You also need to fluently speak a language other than English and be able to integrate culturally with populations who speak that language. You might need to take the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test in the language of your proficiency. If English is your second language, you might need to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to be admitted to a bilingual teacher training program.

Each state's teacher licensing and certification regulations are different, but you might need to obtain a state bilingual teaching endorsement to be eligible for jobs. Bilingual teacher training programs are typically designed to fulfill your state's requirements.

Job RequirementsBachelor's degree, state license or certificate, proficiency exams, state bilingual teaching endorsement
Common TopicsTeaching methods, language and literacy, language and culture, using technology in the classroom, curriculum development
Job Outlook (2014-2024)Increase of 6% (for high school teachers) and 29% (for interpreters) from 2014-2024

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Programs Like?

Usually, bilingual teacher programs are designed for those who want to teach in a particular language. Spanish and Chinese are common program options. You also might be able to find programs that are specifically geared toward teaching elementary or secondary students. Most programs require a student teaching experience, which will place you in a classroom to observe and practice teaching. This is also a requirement for initial state licensure.

If your program is geared toward students who already have a teaching license, you're likely to learn about language and literacy, curriculum development and teaching methods. Other courses may discuss language and culture. You also might learn about using technology in the classroom. You probably won't be able to find an online program due to the hands-on nature of teacher education.

What Are My Job Prospects?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers who could teach in bilingual classrooms were in demand as of May 2014, especially in urban and rural school districts that have a hard time finding qualified teachers (www.bls.gov). The BLS also predicted that as schools enrolled more and more students who speak English as a second language, the need for bilingual teachers would increase.

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