Language & Careers
Become a Language Teacher
Language teacher shortages exist in more than 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The current demand for qualified language educators is paramount—making it a job-seeker’s market for new teachers across the country. Learn here about paths to credentialing, notable degree programs, scholarships, and resources for future language teachers.
Why Become a Language Teacher?
Accompanying students on the journey from discovery to proficiency in a new language is incredibly rewarding. Whether introducing early childhood learners to unknown lands or discussing cultural complexities with high school students in a second language, teachers shape the ways in which their classes engage with the world around them. And knowing that highly sought-after candidates can be more selective, in certain instances districts have begun adding impressive bonuses, professional mentoring programs, and other hiring incentives to the package.
The language classroom is an exciting, dynamic place, filled with live interactions and collaboration—a far cry from the formal recitations and memorization of years gone by. World language students no longer have to board an airplane to speak with their peers a world away. Language teachers draw upon their digital savvy and an international network of colleagues to reach beyond the textbooks, integrating the latest technology into their lessons—including Skype, social media like Twitter, online pen-pal collaborations, blogs, and interactive message-board apps. And in many cases the language of the classroom is spoken right in the local community, providing additional access for students to interact in the language.
The best part? It’s never too late to make your dream a reality. Language educators come to the profession from countless backgrounds, each of which gives their classes a unique depth and perspective. Some teachers take a traditional route and receive their credentials upon graduating from college with a degree in education or in their target language. Others acquire teaching credentials after beginning their career in another field, or through the U.S. Department of Defense Troops to Teachers program.
Are you passionate about linguistics and world cultures? Do you want to make a difference by sharing your love of languages with young people? If your answer is “yes,” there are students in critical need of your expertise and drive. There is no time to waste: your path to becoming a language educator could begin as soon as today.
Credentialing and Teacher Preparation Programs
With assistance from STARTALK, a government program based at the University of Maryland’s National Foreign Language Center, LangCred, an online tool for identifying language credential routes and/or teacher preparation programs by state, has been created. The extensive database provides a succinct overview of all relevant details needed for choosing the perfect program to suit your needs, including:
- Program website and contact information,
- Program type and degree/credentialing outcome,
- Whether online classes are available, and
- Application schedule and fees, if applicable.
To get started, select your state on the LangCred interactive map or search by keyword.
While choosing a degree program, consider if you prefer majoring in Education or in the language you will be teaching. Your university’s education and language departments will be excellent resources for understanding the various pathways open to you which lead to certification.
The University offers two special concentrations in Education at the undergraduate level in support of other majors, one leading to teacher certification and the other preparing students for further studies or careers in public policy and the social sciences. At the postgraduate level, Teachers College offers a Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education with a wide range of degree options for teachers and education specialists both seeking certification and not.
Recently named #1 in undergraduate secondary teacher preparation by the National Council on Teacher Quality, the University offers teaching majors leading to bachelor’s degrees in French, German, and Spanish.
New York University
NYU Steinhardt offers multiple education programs for undergraduate and graduate studies, including tracks leading to degrees in Bilingual Education, Foreign Language Education, and Secondary Education—among others. Dual master’s degrees with dual certification and two semesters of overseas immersion are also available in Teaching French as a Foreign Language and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State offers a B.S. in World Languages for future K-12 teachers; undergraduates can also complete an additional B.A. in their language of specialization at the same time.
University of Maryland
In addition to other degrees, UMD’s College of Education offers undergraduate teacher education programs in Chinese, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Spanish.
University of Virginia
UVA’s Curry School of Education offers a Foreign Language B/MT—allowing future teachers to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years, with a focus on Spanish, French, or German—as well as a traditional 2-year postgraduate MT.
University of Washington
The University of Washington College of Education offers programs in teacher preparation, including preparation programs for Secondary, Elementary, and Special Education Teachers, as well as candidates seeking endorsements in world languages. For graduate students interested in becoming university/college faculty, the Graduate Certificate in Second/Foreign Language Teaching (SFLT Graduate Certificate) prepares UW graduate students to use their foreign language expertise in careers involving modern foreign language teaching.
Scholarships and Grants to Become a Language Teacher (National)
You’ve found the right program, but you’re unsure about tuition and/or certification costs? Fortunately, there are many opportunities to secure additional funding for your teacher preparation experience. Start locally, inquiring about financial assistance at your university and looking into scholarships specific to your state (see bottom of the page). Regional language teachers’ associations, ethnic organizations, and local honor societies are excellent places to begin. You’ll also want to review nationally available opportunities, such as the selection of scholarships for future teachers listed below.
The American Federation of Teachers offers $8,000 college scholarships to be paid out over four years to dependents of AFT members, as well as one-time $1,000 grants to members.
This scholarship for undergraduate members of PLT helps offset tuition in Education degree programs.
This ECEA scholarship is awarded to a pre-service early childhood teacher dedicated to using children’s home cultural and language resources as a platform for achievement in school.
Depending on the length and location of their service, educators may be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans, as well as teacher cancellation for Federal Perkins Loans.
The Scholarship annually provides $1,000 to two prospective teachers who don’t have adequate funding to complete their educational training.
Each year, the Foundation awards five $1,000 awards to students majoring in elementary education.
National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship
An essay on voluntary and compulsory unionism is part of the selection criteria for this NILRR award supporting future teachers.
The National Education Association provides a yearly $2,000 award to an NEA Student Program member pursuing a degree in teacher education.
Among other opportunities, Outlaw Student offers four $500 scholarships a year to current and prospective teachers.
The PDK Educational Foundation annually offers over 30 scholarships to future teachers who have a connection to PDK through membership in Educators Rising, or who have a family member or teacher who is a PDK member.
The TEACH Program offers federal grants up to $4,000 a year to students earning degrees in education. Recipients must teach students from low-income families in a high-need field for at least four years after graduation to prevent the grant from becoming a loan.
Teacher.org offers a one-time $2,500 scholarship to future and current teachers pursuing a variety of Education degrees.
Zeta National Educational Foundation, Inc. (Z-NEF) offers financial assistance to students enrolled in elementary or secondary education degree programs.
The AAEE offers an $800 award to students in teacher preparation programs leading to certification in an area of critical teacher shortage, including many languages.
The New York City Department of Education provides funding for future NYC teachers specializing in Bilingual Special Education, Monolingual and Bilingual Speech Language Pathology, Monolingual and Bilingual Visually Impaired, and Bilingual School Psychology to earn a master’s degree and certification at a participating university.
American Sign Language (ASL)
The Society offers scholarships to students from campuses with an active chapter who are completing degrees in ASL-related areas of interest, including Deaf Education.
The AATF awards one $2,000 scholarship annually to a future French teacher to help fund his or her long-term study abroad experience.
Each year, the National German Honorary Society awards $500 and a student membership to the American Association of Teachers of German to undergraduate or graduate members seeking certification.
JLSF provides $3,000 and round-trip airfare for current and future Japanese language teachers and graduate students wishing to complete a project of their choice in Japan.
ACL scholarships awarded to League members may be applied to Latin Certification class expenses, among other costs.
New Latin Educators Scholarship: the NLE awards 5 renewable awards of $2,000 to high-school seniors and college undergraduates planning to teach Latin.
The Sally R. Davis Graduate School Scholarship: the NLE offers a one-time $2,000 scholarship for postgraduate study leading to teaching K-12 Latin and/or Greek.
In addition to other scholarships the National Junior Classical League offers a $2,000 award to student League members majoring in Latin, Greek, or the Classics and planning to teach.
The CSC offers a scholarship for future Latin teachers preparing for certification; Society membership is not required for consideration.
Teach Tomorrow’s guide to teacher preparation scholarships offers resources for securing financial aid on the national and state levels.
Language-Specific Membership Associations and Resources for Future Teachers
Don’t forget that membership associations and other organizations specific to your language are great places to go for community, direction, and resources.
Chinese – Mandarin
- Asia Society
- Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools
- Chinese Language Teachers Association, USA
- Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban)
- US-China Strong Foundation
- Alliance Française
- American Association of Teachers of French
- Teaching Assistant Program in France – French Embassy in the United States
- American Association of Teachers of Modern Greek
- Modern Greek Language Teachers Association
- Modern Greek Studies Association
- Hebrew at the Center
- National Association of Professors of Hebrew
- National Association of Teachers of Hebrew
- Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life
- American Association for Italian Studies
- American Association of Teachers of Italian
- Association of Italian American Educators
- American Association of Teachers of Japanese
- Japan Foundation
Native American Languages
- American Indian / Indigenous Education (and Conference)
- Consortium of Indigenous Language Organizations
- American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
- American Organization of Teachers of Portuguese
- American Council of Teachers of Russian
- American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages