Having a degree in a foreign language opens up numerous doors to you, worldwide. You will enjoy the many benefits of an exciting career that involves reading, writing, and speaking a language of your choice while learning about different cultures.
Moreover, with your new linguistic skills, you will get to travel to other countries without the need of a translator to speak to the inhabitants. You’ll be well equipped to take on a variety of career choices such as consulting, interpreting, translating, teaching, and much more.
Components of a Successful Career in "Foreign Language"
Success does not come overnight for anyone. In order to have a successful career, you must work for it, learn, study, set goals, and maintain high standards for yourself. Therefore, plan your path carefully and accomplish each component one by one.
Education is the most important component of success in a foreign language career. You won’t go anywhere without first learning your trade and, unless you are already multi-lingual, that means school. After earning your degree in foreign language, you’ll have your foot in the door of many possible careers. Once you have landed your dream job, you will continue to gain experience, maybe even learn another language. The possibilities are endless.
Available career options for those holding a linguistics degree are tourism, finance, banking, public relations, media, and consulting, which can be done locally or internationally. Communication skills in certain languages are in high demand by many employers, as these skills can be applied to different sectors. Particularly Spanish and Arabic speakers are needed in national security, international relations, and other areas of government.
Typical Foreign Language Degree Requirements
Foreign language requirements can differ greatly between schools. Students majoring in foreign language programs may be required to study abroad for a full academic year or more to learn first-hand not only how to communicate both by spoken and written forms, but also to learn about the culture, politics, history, art, and literature of the chosen language.
Typical Foreign Language Degree Certifications Needed
If you are planning to teach a foreign language, you will have to be certified no matter which state you're in. Teaching certifications are required to prove that you are ready to meet the educational demands and teaching standards. To receive certification your foreign language skills will be tested for fluency and understanding among other things.
Although qualifications differ slightly from state to state they are all similar:
At least a bachelor’s degree must be obtained
A masters may be required (in some states)
An internship where you will work with a mentor to observe their teaching process
A competency exam is required to earn your teaching certificate
Academic Standards for a Foreign Language Degree
The need for a mandated set of academic standards was noted years ago by the US Department of Education, and in response; “The National Standards for Foreign Language Education” was born in 1996. Since then, a more modernized version was developed for the 21st century that consists of 11 national standards– grouped in 5 different categories that among educators of foreign languages, are referred to as, “the 5 C’s”…
Communications To communicate in more than one language effectively, for multiple purposes, and to function in various situations
Connections To connect with others and acquire diverse perspectives and information in order to utilize the language in academic and career-related circumstances
Cultures To gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures within context
Communities To interact, communicate, and participate competently, internationally and at home, with multilingual communities
Comparisons To develop insight into the cultures surrounding and the nature of the language to be able to interact with cultural competence
Exam/Experience Needed for a Foreign Language Degree
Associate and bachelor’s foreign language degree programs are usually available online or in a hybrid format, but master’s degree programs are rarely online. Most programs require that students attend campus for curriculum, testing, or specific components. If you are seeking a career as a foreign language teacher, additional requirements are needed that include an internship and state certification exams.
Important Questions to Ask
The college you attend should be a reflection of the kind of person you are, and who you hope to become in the future. Thus, the more important factors should be based on your interests, goals, beliefs, values, strengths, and weaknesses combined. Moreover, knowing about a school's reputation, classroom sizes, professors, graduation rate, courses, diversity, extracurricular activities, and more, will help you choose the best fit for you. Here are some important questions to ask:
How much does tuition cost?
What are other costs outside of tuition?
What kind of financial assistance is offered to most students?
Are there any scholarships available for me?
After getting their degree, are students usually employed right away?
Do they have a career center to benefit students?
What is your graduation rate?
What is the ranking and reputation of this school?
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Foreign Language Bachelor's Degree Online?
It typically takes four years to earn your bachelor’s degree in a foreign language. However, some schools will offer testing for which you can earn college credits and thereby cut that time down by about 30%.
How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree Cost?
To get a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language, it usually costs about $45,348 per year with an estimated average cost of $181,492 for a complete four-year program.
Foreign Language Coursework
The following is a sample plan of study for a bachelor’s degree:
C&T 100: Education Profession Introduction
ANTH 160: Human Experience Varieties
COMS 130: Communication Speaker-Audience
BIOL 100/102: Biology & Lab Principles
ENGL 101: Composition (10”-16”)
MATH 105: Mathematics Introduction
MATH 101: College Algebra
ENGL 102: Critical Reading & Writing
SPAN 212: Intermediate Spanish I
SPAN 216: Intermediate Spanish II
SPAN 324: Composition & Grammar
C&T 324: Middle/Secondary School Curriculum
SPAN 328: Intermediate Spanish Conversation I
SPAN 340: Critical Reading & Textual Analysis
C&T 235: Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion K-12
ELPS 302: Educational Technology
ELPS 250: Society & Education
SPED 326: Teaching Exceptional youth
Physical Lab Requirement & Science Lecture
HSES 260: Community & Personal Health
EPSY 456: Motivating & Managing Learners
C&T 331: ESOL Learners Instructional Approaches
SPAN 424: Advanced Composition & Grammar
C&T 530: Foreign Language Classes
SPAN 428: Advanced Spanish Conversation
SPAN 429: Spanish Phonetics
EPSY 306: Learning & Development of the Adolescent
SPAN 463: Spanish America National Traditions
SPAN 453: Spanish Studies of the 20th Century
Latin/Spanish American Elective Cultures
C&T 544: Situating Foreign Language Classes
C&T 490: Student Teaching
C&T 448: Reading & Writing Across Curriculums
C&t 495: Seminar: Developing a Portfolio
C&T 489: Advanced Practicum Teaching
EPSY 520: Classroom Assessment
ELPS 537: Organization & Governance
SPED 507: Practices for Disabled Children
Does the School Have the Major(s) You’re Considering?
Just because you have decided on a major doesn’t mean that every school will have it. For this reason, it is important to find out beforehand if you will be able to major in what you have chosen at any particular schools you are considering. Odds are, they probably will have what you are looking for since most schools have the same main majors, but it’s always good to make sure.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
There are some colleges and universities with high rates of graduates. A rate of 30% isn’t unusual, especially when it comes to public universities.
When you apply to a college, of course, it’s your plan to graduate, and the same goes for others. Therefore, if most students have never earned their degree, the problem could be the college or university they chose to attend.
The sad part of attending a college and never earning your degree is all the money that was wasted. You should always check the graduation rates of students and if you notice a substantial amount of students attend without graduating, or taking more than four years to obtain their degree, you might want to keep looking.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Accreditation is an extremely important facet of your education, yet many individuals still don’t understand why it’s so important. Incidentally, if you attend an unaccredited school you will be left with a degree that employers not respect.
An accredited school is one that maintains all the high standards set by a respectable accrediting association. Every school must have a defined mission aimed at an education plan that serves the students, along with evidence that shows they have the resources to accomplish this.
You should always look for an accredited school and never consider anything less. Remember, when it comes to your education it is up to you to choose the best.
Associates in Foreign Language
Cost online $25,000 to $30,000 – on-campus $25,000 to $40,000
An associate's foreign language degree program will focus on a specific language of your choosing like French, German, Korean, Chinese, or Spanish. Also offered with these programs is foundational coursework to pursue a bachelor’s or a teaching degree.
The associate degree program will require 60 to 70 credit hours, which is usually completed in two years.
Common general coursework includes:
Foreign language courses include (Ex. Spanish):
Latin American Civilization
English to Spanish Translation
Spanish Study Abroad Program
Bachelors in Foreign Language
Average cost for a four-year degree program from $38,000 to $181,000 in the U.S. and $14,000 to $44,000 to study abroad.
Like the associate degree program in foreign language, the Bachelor’s degree program focuses on the study of a particular foreign language, as well as general education courses, including math, arts, and more in addition to other electives such as writing and speaking skills.
You may participate in online classes and discussions through online portals as well as turn in assignments and take some exams online. However, certain tests require that you take them in person, for which you will need to find a nearby testing location.
120 to 130 credits are typically needed, which on average could take 52 months, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Some of the coursework includes:
Practical & Intellectual Skills
Global & Civic Learning
Knowledge of Human Cultures
Understanding the Natural & Physical world
General Education Electives
History of Civilization
Liberal Arts Capstone
Concentrations: Most concentrations with a foreign language degree are the language you are pursuing (French, Germa, Spanish, etc). However, some other available concentrations include:
Latin American Studies
Masters in Foreign Language
If you seek a career that is both challenging and exciting, a master’s degree in a foreign language may be right for you. With a master’s in a foreign language, you will have two options; you can complete your coursework from your home country or abroad, where you will learn your chosen language hands on.
Studying in your country will allow you to enhance your international awareness and meet new people.
Studying abroad will raise your self-confidence and increase your independence as you gain knowledge of the cultures and traditions of a foreign land as part of your memorable experience and soon you will learn how to communicate effectively with the inhabitants.
Typically, a full-time student can earn a master’s in two years, where those attending part-time can take 4 years. However, they do have fast-track programs where you can graduate in as little as 12 -18 months.
Courses may include:
Second Language Acquisition Research
Intercultural and Multicultural Perspectives in Education
Special Needs Students
Adolescent Learners in Urban Contexts
Language Assessment and Evaluation
Concentrations: Again, most concentrations refer to the specific language you are studying (Spanish, Japanese, Russian), but you also have the option to specialize in Teaching, Literature, Multi-cultural Education, and more.
Associates in Foreign Language
Bachelors in Foreign Language
Masters in Foreign Language
Careers & Salaries
Earning Potential for Foreign Language Degree Fields and Occupations
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that from 2014 to 2024, the demand for translators and interpreters will grow by 29% and there will be a 6% increase in high school teachers employed. Moreover, according to BLS data from 2015, 49,650 employed interpreters and translators earned an average wage of $48,360 annually, while the 962,820 secondary teachers employed in the U.S., earned an average yearly wage of $60,440.
The Difference in Pay for an AA, BA, and MA, and How Experience Increases your Salary
Just as gaining more experience increases your salary, attaining higher-level degrees can also boost your pay. According to the BLS, High school graduates who have a diploma will earn $9,000 more per year than those without one, for an average annual income of $32,600.
Associate degree holders earn $39,500, 6,900 more than high school diploma owners. Next up, those with a Bachelor’s degree make an annual average salary of $53,300, the Master’s degree holders earn $65,400 annually, and those with Doctorate average $79,650.
Foreign Language Fields of Study with Entry Level, Median Annual Salary and Mid-Career Median Annual Salary
Between 2014 and 2024, the job openings for Public relations (PR) are expected to grow by 6-7%, according to the BLS. Most of the projected growth will be driven by social media consumers and businesses. PR experts are generally hired to give a business a positive image so that consumers will think highly of the company and have a positive outlook on them.
This field also involves navigating public discourse that includes understanding the concerns and attitudes of a mass number of individuals like public interest groups, consumers, communities, and employee’s, allowing PR experts to establish and maintain beneficial and effective working relationships. To qualify as a PR professional, you need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. If you add to this qualifications in an in-demand language, such as Spanish, you can earn even more.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $57,697 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $65,260
A career in National Defense entails collecting, gathering, translating, and analyzing information for national defense intelligence and military missions. National defense intelligence personnel are required to handle classified information in the elite community and responsible for tracking inbound threats and radar signals as well as coding and decoding information deemed as classified. Understanding foreign languages is crucial in National defense as information can come from many sources such as radio, television, magazines, newspapers, transmissions, and online broadcasts.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $58,529 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $66,844
Immigration services involve assisting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and other federal personnel to identify those who may pose a threat to public safety and national security.
Employment in this field may include researching and interpreting sources, operating under legislative instruction, knowing immigration laws and regulations, and more. This role may also include using special electronic systems available to verify established data and process applications after interviewing immigration applicants and elicit statement petitioners to determine credibility and eligibility of applicants. Being qualified to communicate effectively across cultural and lingual barriers will make you an attractive hire for this type of position.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $45,597 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $49,133
Foreign Language Salaries by Occupation with Entry Level, Median Annual Salary, Mid-Career Median Annual Salary, and Late Career Median Annual Salary
High School Teacher
Also known as secondary school teachers, high school teachers provide instruction in various areas to students in a private or public high schools. Most high schools in the U.S. provide some form of foreign language instruction. These teachers may also conduct exams and state tests, provide feedback to parents about their child’s educational strengths and weaknesses, and assist students in preparing for college by writing recommendation letters.
To be a high school teacher, you will be required to have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in your instruction choice. Check with your state for more requirements as state education plans vary. In some states, you may need a master’s degree and/or state licensing.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $41,581 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $47,718 Late-Career Median Annual Salary is $60,607
An interpreter can best be described as a middleman who can speak multiple languages and be the go-between for two groups who wish to communicate, but speak different languages. Some may think this sounds easy, but interpreting cannot be done by submitting a translation word for word, rather it often requires paraphrasing to get the right message across.
Today the interpreter’s role has expanded beyond mere translation, as now they also help bridge the gap between development teams by translating technical material. Furthermore, interpreter’s help clients fill out forms in another language, educate them on target markets, and more.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $39,112 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $41,925 Late-Career Median Annual Salary is $52,000
Where interpreters deal in face-to-face interactions, translators usually work with written content. A translator may work on books, advertisements, brochures, and other documents. They translate it into a different language in order to reach new businesses, markets, and consumers.
However, they are not limited to translating documents. They may also help educate clients about the culture, customs, and history of those they seek to engage, as well as ensure the understanding of laws and customs they need to be familiarized with. Translators may also translate things like presentations, drawings, operation procedures, terminology lists, memos, manuals, sensitive material, and other various data points.
Educational requirements vary substantially between employers.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $39,315 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $45,791 Late-Career Median Annual Salary is $56,252
A linguist works with languages in various industries. In many cases, they can do the same work as an interpreter or translator. However, they could also be employed in translating ancient manuscripts, creating new faux “languages” for movies or TV, or even work with the FBI or CIA on national security issues that need expertise in their focus language(s).
Linguists are required to have a bachelor’s degree or better, while also being fluent in at least two languages. Contingency to employment, they may also have to pass various language proficiency tests among other minor checks.
Entry Level Median Annual Salary is $58,636 Mid-Career Median Annual Salary is $65,047 Late-Career Median Annual Salary is $71,862
Foreign Language Scholarships
Boren Scholarships Amount: ($20,000) Boren Scholarships are an initiative of the National Security Education Program. They offer funds for undergraduate students in the U.S. interested in learning critical, less studied languages in certain world regions such as Asia, Eurasia, Middle East, Central, and Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Scholars must commit to working at least one year for the federal government upon graduating.
Contact: The Scholarship Committee Address: 1400 K St NW, 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20005 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
DAAD German Studies Research Grant Amount: ($3,000) This program offers research grants to undergraduates studying German who are highly qualified with a minimum of junior standing that must have completed two years of college and at least three courses in German studies. They may use the grant for one to two months research in Germany. The program was created to promote cultural, historical, and political studies while encouraging research in German affairs and other modern aspects.
Contact: Scholarship Committee Address: 871 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017-1814 Email: email@example.com Phone: 212-758-3223
Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship Fund Amount: ($2,000) This scholarship is available to public high school senior graduates in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties in the state of Washington. Candidates are nominated each year by their school and scholarships can be renewed in Washington state for four years of college. Major courses that are not accepted are interior decorating, music, domestic science, sculpture, and drawing.
TEACH Grant Amount: ($4,000)($2,000) This grant is offered to those planning to have a career in teaching. For the TEACH grant, you must be enrolled as a post-baccalaureate, graduate student, or undergraduate, at a participating school, complete the free application, meet noted academic requirements, receive TEACH Grant counseling that explains the terms, and sign a TEACH Grant agreement saying you will teach at an elementary school in a high-need field.
Contact: The U.S. Department of Education
Professional Foreign Language Organizations
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
The ACTFL is dedicated to expanding and improving teaching and learning of all levels of language instruction. In addition, ACTFL is an individual organization with over 12,500 members that include administrators, students, and educators.
African Studies Association (ASA)
Established in 1957, and based in the U.S., the ASA is a flagship member organization dedicated to increasing the information exchanged about Africa. With nearly 2,000 institutional and individual members all over the world, the ASA encourages the dissemination and production of knowledge about Africa both present and past. The ASA supports the understanding of each facet of an entire continent; economics, culture, politics, scientific, artistic, and environmental landscape. Members include activists, development professionals, teachers, scholars, policymakers, students, and donors.
National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
The NABE is a non-profit organization that has been working to advocate for excellence and educational equity for multilingual students in the global society since 1975. They work to improve instructional practices for culturally and linguistically diverse children and offer multilingual educators with professional, high-quality development opportunities. Moreover, they secure adequate funding for those who serve limited-English proficient students and while communities and states move forward with educational reforms, keep a focus on the rights of the American language minorities.
Choosing an Accredited College
Fortunately most all community colleges are accredited. Therefore, your credits can be transferred from one institution to another, including graduate programs and four-year colleges if you decide to attend an accredited community college.
Online vs On-Campus vs Hybrid
Students going to college now have three basic choices on how to attend and complete their coursework. Students attending college traditionally can choose to attend daily from home or can stay on campus.
The 21st century of technology has brought us more options. Students can now attend college classes — full-time — from the comfort of home, online. While attending an online school, students can access tools, watch videos, chat with professors, obtain assignments and hand them in, and more. However, to take tests and particular foreign language exams, students have to visit a school or learning center.
The third and final option is to attend college in a hybrid format. Students can do most of their assignments online, but also spend some time at the college to meet with teachers and take tests.
Does the College Have Post Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
From helping to prepare you for interviews to connecting you with potential employers a job placement assistance program is very important. Although there is never a real guarantee that you will get the dream job you are seeking as soon as you graduate, a good placement team will at least focus on assisting you to make sure you gain some form of employment. Therefore, be sure to find out if the college you are thinking about attending has the right team who are experienced and ready to assist your employment needs
Why You Need to Consider that Rating/accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
Many colleges are highly recognizable just by the mention of their name. For instance, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford University are well-known learning institutions. Because they are so popular these colleges are ranked high by employers. When you get your degree from such a school, employers are eager to hire you. The same goes for colleges that are accredited by reputable associations. The better the organization that accredits the school, the more employers will respect your degree and they may even pay you more. This is why you must choose the school you will get your degree from, wisely.