The demand for bilingual employees who are versed in Spanish and English has grown in the last decade as the Hispanic population continues to grow. A growing need for students who understand the language, culture, and history of Latino countries is creating many opportunities for work with both U.S. Spanish-speaking citizens, and beyond.
Part I. The Spanish Industry
Spanish is growing at an astonishing rate in the U.S. There was a 43 % increase in the Hispanic population in the U.S. between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2010, constituting 16.3% of the nation’s total population. By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that Latinos will make up 30% of the nation’s population.
An Overview of the Field
- Interpreters and translators: These professionals work in many different settings, including schools, hospitals, courtrooms, and conference centers. Many interpreters and translators have a bachelor’s degree, as well as some sort of professional certification and training for specialized fields. There are many different certification programs for Spanish interpreters through federal agencies such as the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators or the U.S. Department of State.
- There are many different teaching roles for those with experience and professional training in Spanish. All levels of education from early learning, K-12 to colleges and universities have a need for Spanish-speaking educators. There are also positions for those interested in adult literacy, GED education and medical transcription.
- With an increasingly global market, many supervisory, middleman, and professional service occupations require bilingual proficiency. These positions vary in salary depending on the industry.
The median annual wage of interpreters and translators was $43,300 in May 2010. It is important to remember that pay is contingent upon the type of translation or interpreting you will be doing — work in sectors like business or government are likely to pay much higher than perhaps jobs in the field of social work.
Depending on the labor market, conversational Spanish skills can significantly boost one’s earning potential. Bilingual nurses, for instance, earn an average of 7% more than their monolingual peers. The earning power of these multilingual healthcare professionals will continue to rise as the federal government tightens the requirements of comprehensive language services in healthcare facilities across the nation.
Salary and Career Outlook
Employment of interpreters and translators is expected to grow 42% between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The forces behind this boom include not only the growing number of non-English-speaking employees, but also the expansion of international ties across various industrial and business sectors.
Professional certification and advanced education will be important for job applicants looking to leverage their foreign language abilities professionally.
Part II. Top U.S. Spanish Programs
It is important to note that most students that major in Spanish start out with at least a low-level of proficiency in the language. But if you didn’t start studying Spanish in high school, you can still begin at the university-level; you’ll just have to pay for introductory class credits that you could’ve otherwise transferred or bypassed by doing well on placement level exam.
Regardless of your current level, the following schools offer excellent and comprehensive Spanish language degree programs.
The University of Massachusetts
An online certificate program is a great way to make sure you’ve selected the right field and get experience to gain admission to the top universities and programs in the field. A certificate in translation is a useful tool in the professional world and a great way to boost your resume.
- Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Specialized Degrees: The Certificate Program in Spanish/English Translation was created to meet the increasing demand for expertise in the history, principles, theory and practice of oral and written translation. The 12-credit certificate program preps students in legal, medical, technical, literary and general translation.
- Industry Perception: UMass won the Sloan Consortium Award for the Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program, and ranks yearly on the U.S. News and World list of top online programs.
- Cost: $1,040 (340 x 3 credits) for the certificate.
- Financial Aid: Online students are eligible for the same financial aid as traditional students. Eligibility depends on course status and student qualifications and typically includes loans and grants.
Arizona State University
The selection of degrees and courses available online through ASU continues to get accolades in the world of online education. The Spanish programs are an excellent way to take the first step in building your language skills to pursue advanced employment opportunities.
- Accreditation: North Central Association Higher Learning Commission
- Specialized Degrees: Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) in Spanish. An online language proficiency exam places students at an appropriate course levels. Students with prior language experience can test out of upper and lower courses. Beyond language the program requires cultural classes on Spanish and Latin American traditions, as well as social and cultural studies of the Spanish-speaking world.
- Industry Perception: As a large, top-level research institute ASU is well respected in the world of education from U.S. News & World Report to the Wall Street Journal. The online degree programs through ASU online ensure students get the same quality education as those on the brick and mortar campus with innovative use of web technologies, 24-hour live technical support and instructor interaction.
- Cost: Tuition for the online undergraduate degree is $425 per credit or $10,200 annually.
- Financial Aid: Arizona high schools are eligible for the Regents High Honors Endorsement. There are a number of financial aid options in the form of private scholarships, grants, work-study and loan opportunities for online students.
Mercy students graduate this program with the necessary Spanish language skills, but the academic focus on literature, culture, and history is highly attractive to national or international employers.
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Specialized Degrees: Bachelor of Science in Spanish, with options to pursue a concentration in literature or foreign languages/secondary education for those interested in becoming teachers.
- Industry Perception: Mercy College is a four-year, private institution with a long history of serving Hispanic population students, which aids to the credibility and quality of the Spanish language and culture courses.
- Cost: Full-time tuition is $8,498.00 per term, with 12 credits per term following the Spanish degree curriculum.
- Financial Aid: Students are eligible for financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study and loans depending on student merit and need through the FAFSA application. The priority deadline is February 15 every year for students who want to be considered for the best financial resources.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
Designed for K-12 teachers this Master’s degree program enables students to pursue career opportunities like teaching Spanish at a community college, lecturing at the university level or enrolling in a doctoral program in education.
- Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
- Specialized Degrees: The Master’s in Arts Education (MAE) in Spanish combines Spanish and education-related coursework including foreign language pedagogy that culminates in a these or study abroad opportunities.
- Industry Perception: The MAE is one of the only online Spanish Master’s programs in the country, and arguably the best. Students have access to 24/7 library services, discounted software and hardware, a writing center, technology help desk and online bookstore to ensure their programs runs smooth and effectively.
- Cost: With one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, Nebraska residents will pay $269 in tuition per credit, and non-residents pay $418. The program requires 36 credit hours to total roughly $10,000 for residents and $15,000 for non-residents, not including fees.
- Financial Aid: Online students are eligible for federal financial aid, and scholarships as a continuing student once admitted to the university.
Making the Most out of Your Higher Education Experience
Especially with a degree related to Spanish, there are many steps you can take during your higher education experience in order to become a competitive job applicant and gain valuable life experiences.
Research your study abroad options: Regardless of whether you attend a brick and mortar institution or pursue your degree online, your program will almost definitely accept credits you’ve earned studying in a Spanish-speaking country. Check with your university for credit transfer policies and ask for a list of approved programs. You can also get started by browsing this list of highly-regarded international study programs.
Consider double majoring. This is an especially good strategy if you already know what you want to do with your Spanish. If you’re planning on using your Spanish language skills in a business or healthcare capacity, adding a major or minor focus in these fields will be a huge advantage as you enter the job market.
Part III. Launching a Career
Combine your love of Spanish with a field that will captivate you interests for years to come. Use these career tips to start planning how your educational experience can prepare you for the workforce.
Organizing the Job Search
Volunteer Experience: Volunteer opportunities for interpreters are available through community organizations, hospitals, and sporting events, such as marathons, that involve international competitors. The American Translators Association works with the Red Cross to provide volunteer interpreters during crises.
Internships and Job Shadow: Paid or unpaid internships are other ways that interpreters and translators can get experience. Escort interpreting may offer an opportunity for inexperienced candidates to “shadow,” or work alongside, a more experienced interpreter.
Tips From Bilingual Professionals
- Fluency in a foreign language involves a skill set that is now very important to many employers, especially those who require their employees to travel overseas.. Being able to communicate in a colleague’s native tongue helps business negotiations as well as social interactions with that colleague go much more smoothly than does working through a translator. There are just some cultural aspects of communication that do not translate well. — Kathy Mahnke, director of the Center for World Languages and Cultures at the University of Denver
- With the growth of China, India, and Brazil, the U.S. will become one player—not the player—in the world economy, Americans no longer have the luxury of staying mono-lingual. — Michelle Randall
- I believe that students should take more than the minimum required. I should note because English is the lingua franca of business, many believe that another language is not necessary. This is not so, because one is very limited in the ability to truly understand a different culture if one cannot speak the language of that culture. — Thomas J. Cossé, professor of marketing and international business at the University of Richmond Robins School of Business
- It is imperative that colleges and universities set the foreign language requirement at a level that would help students gain ability to communicate ably. — Mary Lynn Redmond, professor of education at Wake Forest University
Benefits of a Global Economy
Foreign language is no longer needed for employment in distinct fields; a globalized economy means bilingual students are more competitive and in-tune with the cultural and economic tools needed to work in a wide range of sectors from healthcare and to business and public administration. Learning language is also about developing a love and interest for another world of culture and history. It is a lifelong skill that can take you around the world and back.