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Foreign Language Teacher Job Description & Career Outlook

The role of a foreign language teacher is to teach courses in a specific language, including instruction in literature and cross-cultural studies. Foreign language teachers are masters of their language, demonstrating a high proficiency to read, write, and speak in the language they are are teaching. By having these skills, instructors create an environment for students to learn effectively.

Foreign Language Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

To obtain a career as a foreign language teacher, there are certain requirements that must be met. Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree in foreign language, linguistics, or a related field, native fluency, an understanding of the culture associated with the language, and a strong desire to teach the subject.

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Along with a bachelor’s degree, an instructor should have the right certifications needed to teach. This may vary from state to state and it is always wise to check which certifications a state requires. While education and certifications are requirements for foreign language teachers, they should also have certain personality traits. Being very patient, having a sense of creativity, and the ability to use the latest technology will ensure a productive learning environment.

Foreign Language Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

As different cultures begin to come together, the need for foreign language teachers is going to rise. The salary for a foreign language teacher varies greatly depending on the employee and location. This variance can range from $33,000 to $103,000, but the average salary is $63,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The United States government is also in search of talented and motivated foreign language teachers. These instructors are needed in many sectors of the government including the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency. Career opportunities with the CIA are in high demand and pay very well.

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How to Become a Foreign Language Teacher

In order to become a foreign language teacher, students will have several options to choose from based on their educational background. For a recent high school graduate or returning student, the first step is to enroll in a college or university that has an accredited education program. These students can expect to finish their degree and receive certification in four or five years. With every major, a student can expect to take two years of general education classes, which encompasses a wide array of classes, including math, English, science, and humanities.

After those two years, the student must be accepted into the school of education at their college, and then take education courses designed to help the student learn how to teach foreign language. The student will major in the subject which they want to teach (i.e. Spanish, French, German), which will require at least 24 to 25 credit hours in that field. There is also a practicum and student teaching requirement. Students also have to pass state mandated testing in order to complete this program, which can be a series of tests designed to test basic skills, content, and teaching proficiency. If a student desires to receive a middle school endorsement, he or she will need to take the required classes (usually two or three) for this. Some states and school districts have more opportunities for foreign language in middle schools than others. Students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in whichever language they have chosen, and then entitlement documentation will be sent to the state. Graduates must then apply for the state to issue a certificate.

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If a student already holds a bachelor’s degree (in any field), he or she can apply for graduate school, where a Masters degree and teacher certification can be earned in approximately two or three years. The coursework is dependent on a student’s educational history. If the student has a Bachelor’s degree in a foreign language, he will only take a regimen of education courses for certification and graduation requirements. If the student’s background is not foreign language, he will have to take enough courses in the specific language to constitute a language major (usually around 24 to 25 credit hours). Practicum hours and student teaching are a requirement for either situation, and state tests are given which are identical to the ones given to bachelor’s candidates. Students can also elect to take the required middle school classes for middle school certification.

There are, of course, other paths that a student can take in order to become a foreign language teacher. Requirements to teach college, for example, can be much different than those of the high school or middle school setting. Some colleges require at least a Masters degree to teach, while others require a Doctoral degree in their specific language field. The Masters degree must be issued for the subject desired to teach, as also the Doctoral degree. Variations can exist if a student holds a combination of education and foreign language degrees.

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