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Working As a Foreign Language Teacher

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • $53,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Foreign Language Teacher Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field
  • Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees
  • Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts.

At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a subject, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors need to keep up with developments in their field by reading scholarly articles, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. A tenured professor must do original research, such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use websites to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors communicate with students by email and by phone and might never meet their students in person.

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How To Become A Foreign Language Teacher

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.

Education

Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. They spend time completing a master’s degree and then writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, in some fields, there are more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Postsecondary teachers who teach career and technical education courses, such as culinary arts or cosmetology, may not be required to have graduate-level education. At a minimum they must hold the degree of the program in which they are teaching. For example, the teacher must hold an associate’s degree if they teach a program that is at the associate’s degree level. In addition, work experience or certification may be just as important as education for getting a postsecondary teaching job at a career or technical school.

Other Experience

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Some postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct professors, have another job in addition to teaching.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.

Advancement

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time faculty.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need good critical-thinking skills.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

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Foreign Language Teacher Career Paths

Average Length of Employment
French Teacher 4.1 years
Science Teacher 4.1 years
Teacher 3.9 years
German Teacher 3.8 years
Spanish Teacher 3.7 years
Language Teacher 3.0 years
Literacy Teacher 2.3 years
Chinese Teacher 2.2 years
Top Careers Before Foreign Language Teacher
Teacher 18.8%
Internship 6.0%
Volunteer 5.5%
Tutor 4.5%
Translator 3.8%
Instructor 3.8%
Assistant 2.5%
Cashier 2.3%
Top Careers After Foreign Language Teacher
Teacher 16.0%
Instructor 7.2%
Tutor 6.6%
Volunteer 4.1%
Consultant 3.1%
Translator 3.1%
Internship 2.9%

Do you work as a Foreign Language Teacher?

Average Yearly Salary
$53,000
Show Salaries
$39,000
Min 10%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$53,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Max 90%
Highest Paying City
Monterey, CA
Highest Paying State
California
Avg Experience Level
3.5 years
How much does a Foreign Language Teacher make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Foreign Language Teacher in the United States is $53,808 per year or $26 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $39,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $74,000.

Real Foreign Language Teacher Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Teacher-Secondary School Foreign Languages North Shore Central School District Glen Head, NY Jul 01, 2015 $130,291 -
$134,695
Teacher-Secondary School Foreign Languages North Shore Central School District Glen Head, NY Aug 01, 2015 $117,185
Foreign Language Teacher-Mandarin Hewlett-Woodmere Union Free School District Hewlett, NY Aug 15, 2016 $87,139
Foreign Language Teacher (Mandarin) New York Preparatory School DBA The Dwight School New York, NY Dec 04, 2016 $86,070
Foreign Language Teacher (Mandarin) Grace Church School New York, NY Sep 01, 2015 $80,000 -
$90,000
Foreign Language Teacher (Mandarin) Grace Church School New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $80,000 -
$90,000
Teacher-Secondary School Foreign Languages North Shore Central School District Glen Head, NY Jun 09, 2016 $74,119
Foreign Language Teacher (Mandarin) The Brearley School New York, NY Sep 14, 2015 $68,000 -
$78,000
Foreign Language Teacher The Brooklyn Waldorf School New York, NY Jan 10, 2016 $63,700
Foreign Language Teacher, Mandarin Chinese Riverdale Country School, Inc. New York, NY Nov 26, 2016 $62,621
Chinese/Japanese Foreign Language Teacher Frederic L. Chamberlain Center, Inc. Middleborough, MA Aug 29, 2016 $62,000
Foreign Language Teacher (Mandarin) The Brearley School New York, NY Sep 14, 2015 $61,000 -
$71,000
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-Euless Euless, TX Jan 08, 2016 $45,490
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-Euless Euless, TX Aug 01, 2016 $45,490
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony School of Innovation-Fort Worth Fort Worth, TX Dec 31, 2016 $45,490
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony School of Innovation-Fort Worth Fort Worth, TX Aug 15, 2016 $45,490
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-San Antonio San Antonio, TX Aug 03, 2015 $45,350
Foreign Language Teacher School of Science and Technology San Antonio, TX Sep 15, 2016 $45,350
Department Chair of Foreign Languages/French Teacher St. George's Episcopal School New Orleans, LA Aug 20, 2015 $44,907
Foreign Language Teacher The Martin Luther School NY Aug 15, 2016 $44,700
Foreign Language Teacher-Turkish Harmony Public Schools Brownsville, TX May 16, 2016 $43,000
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-El Paso El Paso, TX Sep 27, 2016 $42,890
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-El Paso El Paso, TX Sep 09, 2016 $42,890
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-El Paso El Paso, TX Aug 03, 2015 $42,890
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony School of Innovation-El Paso El Paso, TX Sep 30, 2015 $42,890
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-Carrollton Carrollton, TX Dec 02, 2016 $42,850
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-Dallas Dallas, TX Jan 08, 2016 $42,850
Foreign Language Teacher Harmony Science Academy-Carrollton Carrollton, TX Feb 12, 2016 $42,850

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Top Skills for A Foreign Language Teacher

  1. Classroom Management
  2. Language Curriculum
  3. Lesson Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintain a strong classroom management with the ability to keep students focus on task and highly motivated.
  • Planned and taught Spanish and Japanese language curriculum to Kst-6th grade students at a Waldorf-inspired, start-up charter school..
  • Interpret assessment data and verify appropriate modification and accommodations have been established in personal daily lesson plans.
  • Created and administered Spanish language curricula and exams for honors and regular level classes.
  • Analyzed student learning in order to administer a variety of appropriate differentiated assessments.

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Top 10 Best States for Foreign Language Teachers

  1. Nevada
  2. California
  3. Arizona
  4. Alaska
  5. New Jersey
  6. Michigan
  7. Massachusetts
  8. New Mexico
  9. Utah
  10. Florida
  • (268 jobs)
  • (2,746 jobs)
  • (392 jobs)
  • (47 jobs)
  • (458 jobs)
  • (691 jobs)
  • (440 jobs)
  • (145 jobs)
  • (102 jobs)
  • (583 jobs)

Foreign Language Teacher Demographics

Gender

Female

60.5%

Male

26.8%

Unknown

12.7%
Ethnicity

White

54.6%

Hispanic or Latino

20.3%

Black or African American

10.8%

Asian

10.1%

Unknown

4.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

29.0%

French

17.5%

Chinese

8.9%

Mandarin

7.8%

Russian

6.5%

Italian

5.7%

Portuguese

4.7%

Japanese

3.9%

German

3.9%

Arabic

3.9%

Korean

1.8%

Turkish

0.8%

Hindi

0.8%

Ukrainian

0.8%

Thai

0.8%

Greek

0.8%

Persian

0.8%

Dutch

0.5%

Hungarian

0.5%

Serbian

0.5%
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Foreign Language Teacher Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

8.8%

National University

6.9%

Georgia State University

6.9%

University of South Florida

5.9%

Michigan State University

5.9%

Ohio State University

5.9%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

5.9%

University of New Orleans

4.9%

Old Dominion University

4.9%

University of Colorado at Boulder

4.9%

New York University

3.9%

George Washington University

3.9%

Northwestern University

3.9%

University of Maryland - College Park

3.9%

Arizona State University

3.9%

Temple University

3.9%

University of Iowa

3.9%

Walden University

3.9%

Middlebury College

3.9%

University of Georgia

3.9%
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Majors

Linguistics

14.6%

Education

12.2%

English

9.3%

Business

9.0%

Elementary Education

7.7%

Psychology

5.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

4.9%

Educational Leadership

4.8%

Teaching English As A Second Language

3.8%

Area Studies

3.7%

Political Science

3.3%

Law

2.7%

History

2.6%

Communication

2.6%

Special Education

2.6%

Spanish Language

2.4%

Nursing

2.4%

International Relations

2.4%

Early Childhood Education

2.0%

Global Studies

2.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

35.3%

Masters

35.0%

Other

15.1%

Certificate

5.3%

Doctorate

5.1%

Associate

2.3%

Diploma

1.4%

License

0.4%
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Updated May 19, 2020