If you completed high school, you most likely spent some time learning to speak a foreign language—if “learning” means memorizing a few curse words and how to ask where the bathroom is. Or, maybe you decided to go with Latin, because it amused you that the word for six is “sex” and because you knew you’d never actually have to speak the language. Because it’s dead.
But let’s say you have actually mastered a second language and are truly bilingual. Maybe you grew up in a bilingual household and are trying to figure out how to put this skill to use in a situation that doesn’t involve getting yelled at by your mom.
If this sounds like you, becoming a bilingual education assistant might be in your future.
In this article, we’ll cover:
If the child lives in a household where only his native language is spoken, you could represent one of his first chances to practice speaking English. You may be their introduction to American language and culture. That’s a lot of responsibility for somebody in a relatively low-paying job. When you succeed, however, you truly will make a difference in someone’s life. The results can be inspiring.
Most bilingual education assistants in the United States help non-native speakers learn English, but there are other kinds of bilingual education assistant opportunities.
New York City is introducing more multi-language programs for preschool students; these require assistants. There are also schools that have specialized dual language programs where students are taught in two languages. Bilingual schools are growing and have become popular choices for people of all backgrounds.
Opportunities also exist at the collegiate level. If you love foreign language and are willing to deal with snarky college students, you might do well here. Note: these positions are mostly occupied by graduate students.
Becoming a bilingual education assistant in public schools is certainly not as difficult as becoming a teacher. The primary requirement is knowledge of the language students speak.
In order to become a bilingual education assistant in the Laguna Beach school district, for example, one must possess the “equivalent to the completion of the twelfth grade, with coursework or training in child growth and development, instructional technology, or bilingual/bicultural instructional processes.” The school system also requires two years of work experience, paid or volunteer, with “students experiencing language deficiencies and remedial instruction needs.”
Of course, the more qualified you are, the better your chances of landing the job. Consider getting a Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential in Early Childhood Education (ECE). It is a certification (i.e., not a degree) that takes 120 hours to complete. The CDA is important because most job postings seek assistants for preschool and elementary schools.
It is easier to become a teacher’s assistant than it is to become a teacher—obviously—but there are still some requirements. Higher education helps qualify you, but you probably won’t need anything more than an associate’s degree. If you are in college and a go-getter, you can complete a teacher preparation program while you are still an undergradUATE.
Whether you need a license will depend on the state in which you work. State requirements vary, so check on your state’s requirements before starting your job search. Some states will require a passing grade on the ParaPro exam, which is a general aptitude test that many states require for teacher certification.
So, you love helping kids learn English, but $30,000 a year isn’t cutting it for you? It might be time to move up in the world. The obvious choice is to become a teacher. There is always a need for bilingual teachers, especially elementary school teachers. You will need a bachelor’s degree to get started; in many states, you will also need a master’s degree by the time you have to renew your license.
You could also become a bilingual education specialist.The job involves working with teachers to develop lessons and advocate for the needs of English language learners. If you think you have learned enough about what makes the best bilingual teachers successful, you might be ready to start developing your own bilingual programs. A certificate program can bolster your prospects of landing this job.
You might also find work as an immersion teacher or corporate instructor. Immersion teachers typically work with students trying to learn the basics of a foreign language quickly. Corporate instructors help professionals prepare to do business in a second language—probably so they don’t sell their company accidentally—or immigrants trying to learn enough English to work.
If you are a bilingual education assistant and you want to continue teaching, it is important to stay on top of your accreditations and certificates. The CDA must be renewed every three years, for example. You can worry about that later, though. First you have to go out there and. Get. That. Certification.
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