Spanish Teacher: Education Requirements, Salary, and Other Career Info
Teaching Spanish is an ideal career for people with strong communication skills and a devotion to diversity. With the increasing demand for bilingual speakers in education, business and communities at large, people who can teach Spanish are highly valued.
Spanish teachers typically are passionate about literature, liberal arts, world history, mass communications, economics and commerce. They are methodical, patient and devoted to subjects that enhance their students’ cultural understanding of Spanish-speaking countries.
Our guide offers insights into the required education, salary and jobs for Spanish teachers. Browse through the content or use the following links to jump to your desired destination:
At-a-glance: Spanish teachers
|Elementary||Middle school||High school||College/postsecondary|
|Education||Bachelor’s; master’s preferred||Bachelor’s; master’s preferred||Bachelor’s; master’s preferred||Master’s; doctorate|
|Typical study time||4-6 years||4-6 years||4-6 years||5-10 years|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for elementary, middle school and high school teachers overall, and for postsecondary foreign language teachers.)
Most Spanish teachers work in subject-specific classrooms in middle and high schools, junior colleges and universities that offer foreign language courses and degrees. Depending on grade level, Spanish teachers may specialize in a specific area like reading, writing or verbal communication. They may also teach a variety of subjects, including Spanish literature and world history that assist students in making positive connections between local communities in U.S. regions and those of Spanish-speaking countries.
Some Spanish teachers also teach multimedia courses, such as video and film production; journalism, social media and mass communication, including bilingual radio and TV broadcasting (at the high school and college levels).
Regardless of their areas of expertise, all Spanish teachers are expected to have a firm grasp of vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure and written communication rules for both English and Spanish.
For people who enjoy teaching reading, writing and verbal communications, a career teaching Spanish includes many opportunities outside the school setting. Teaching Spanish is an excellent opportunity to work in a creative field while broadening knowledge for every generation of students and the workforce — introducing them to new cultures and developing bilingual communication skills that are in demand.
Spanish teacher job description
Spanish teachers should be well-grounded in classroom management, teaching methodologies, and school procedures. In addition to teaching creative subjects like poetry and fiction writing, they should be prepared to teach Spanish grammar rules, spelling and diction, word pronunciation, sentence structure, punctuation, reading and essay writing.
Full-time Spanish teachers typically work eight-hour shifts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most public and some private school teachers have summers off, along with various holidays and winter breaks that generally run two to three weeks. They may also serve as advisors for after-school activities like Spanish club, yearbook and sports.
An interest in Spanish, Mexican, Latin American, Filipino and Hispanic cultures is important. Today’s curriculum for all foreign languages in U.S. schools is focused on learning Spanish, French, German, Chinese and other languages while simultaneously embracing native cultures and understanding the values of people around the world. For Spanish teachers, this includes South and Central America, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Mexico and Spain, as well as major portions of the southeastern and southwestern United States.
A passion for literature is an important facet of teaching any foreign language. Reading the literary works of Spanish-speaking authors — from Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra to Gabriel García Márquez — is sometimes required of teaching Spanish in American schools.
Spanish teachers also:
- Prepare coursework and assignments for classes with a focus on grade-appropriate lessons and full fluency as a long-term goal
- Grade tests, essays and reports, and other writing assignments, and work with students to improve classroom performance
- Meet with colleagues to coordinate techniques and work on specific lesson plans, such as phonics, grammar or writing
- Hold conferences with students to identify areas that require attention and keep them on track to become fluent in Spanish
- Meet with parents or guardians to discuss students’ academic progress, remedial issues and behavior problems when necessary
Who makes good Spanish teachers?
Spanish teachers should have outstanding bilingual vocabularies, with a firm grasp of correct word pronunciation and spelling and the ability to effortlessly break words down phonetically.
Students of English as a second language (ESL) and English speakers of other languages (ESOL) who speak fluent Spanish may take Spanish to help improve their English language abilities. This requires Spanish teachers who are sensitive to the needs of a diverse range of students with bilingual speaking skills.
People who teach Spanish should be:
- Relaxed speaking in front of large groups in English and Spanish
- Able to inspire students to converse in Spanish
- Comfortable explaining differences in gender nouns, subject/verb agreement, and use of accent symbols
- Grounded in grade-level expectations and progress indicators to keep students working toward fluency
- Knowledgeable about expository, persuasive, argumentative speaking and writing genres and techniques
- Experts in English and Spanish punctuation — from the proper use of semicolons to word hyphenation
- Able to teach critical thinking while advancing students’ bilingual verbal and written communication skills
Because grammar, sentence structure, expository and persuasive writing are rule-oriented, people with a knack for learning languages are well-suited to become Spanish teachers.
Interested in becoming a Spanish teacher?
Watch this video to learn how middle school Spanish teacher Rebeccah Wish creates the experience of being in another part of the world for her students at The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore:
Teaching Spanish at the various levels
The path to becoming a Spanish teacher depends on the level of instruction: elementary, middle school, high school or postsecondary school (college). The higher the grade level, the more concentrated the specialization in Spanish studies and curriculum.
Many factors determine what grade level to teach. These include:
- Degree attainment: Postsecondary institutions typically require an advanced degree; whereas elementary, middle and high schools prefer Spanish teachers to hold a master’s degree or higher
- Range and breadth of Spanish language arts subjects; the higher the grade level, the more advanced the curriculum
- Desire to teach advanced courses focused on literature and writing genres, beginning in grades 10-12 and continuing through college
- Age and maturity levels of students — from K-12 to college, the more mature the students the more attentive and dedicated to learning they tend to be
- Local salary considerations and availability of employment opportunities, with current demand for Spanish teachers highest in middle school, followed by high school and junior college
Spanish instructors should be familiar with the Standards for Foreign Language Learning. Adopted by many private and public schools over the past two decades, these standards were developed in the early 1990s to promote awareness of the five C’s embedded in foreign language studies. These guidelines for teaching world languages in U.S. schools offer practical steps to help Spanish teachers design and implement curriculum.
The five C’s for learning Spanish as a foreign language are:
- Communication: Engage students in conversations in Spanish and convey information to help them express ideas and emotions, and share personal opinions about current affairs and other topics.
- Cultures: Provide students with knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures through personal experience, print, video, online and other sources, and help them make comparisons to the United States.
- Connections: Demonstrate various disciplines through fine arts and literature, media and commerce that introduce students to the viewpoints of thought leaders from Spanish-speaking countries.
- Comparisons: Develop insight about the language and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries with opportunities that help students demonstrate and compare their knowledge of the countries.
- Communities: Encourage students to engage with other native speakers and bilingual Spanish-speaking people at home, in local communities and abroad, and share their personal experiences.
Additionally, the cross-cultural academic integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is especially important in the 21st century. Today’s teachers are expected to help students expand their interest in STEM subjects while connecting them to diverse communities within the United States and abroad.
The development of proper verbal and written communication skills for English and Spanish learners is crucial to the success of STEM curriculum in the nation’s schools, which are increasingly bilingual and biliterate.
Elementary school Spanish teachers
Spanish teachers for elementary school generally fall into these areas:
- Spanish language teacher, often teaching half-hour or hour classes several times a week
- Immersion teacher for students to become bilingual and biliterate
- Transitional teacher for ESL/ESOL students lacking proficiency in English
Unlike traditional Spanish language teachers who focus on a single subject, teachers in Spanish immersion and transitional programs must be trained in the core subjects for the elementary grade level.
Click here for in-depth details about teaching Spanish in elementary schools
For students who have a limited proficiency in English, the goal is to move the student to English-only instruction. Teachers provide instruction in literacy and academics in Spanish along with instruction in English language development.
In Spanish immersion programs, teachers instruct students in both Spanish and English with a goal of developing bilingual and biliterate students. For example, math may be taught entirely in Spanish, while social studies instruction is in English. In the early grades, most of the curriculum is taught in Spanish. In later grades, half the curriculum may be in Spanish, depending on the subject.
Here is a video showcasing a Spanish immersion program in an elementary setting:
Many elementary schools with large Spanish-speaking communities — the Southeast, Southwest, California and Pacific Coast states — offer curriculum that is comparable to middle school introductory Spanish-language programs. One private school in Tucson, Arizona, for example, offers “pre-readiness” Spanish courses for elementary students. The school’s curriculum for grades 1-6 are designed to prepare students for intermediate Spanish in middle school.
In addition to focusing on cultural activities — such as festivities and games from Spanish-speaking cultures — some elementary school Spanish classes teach students to:
- Greet and engage people in basic Spanish conversations
- Sing a song and perform a skit entirely in Spanish
- Listen to and discuss Spanish folktales, short stories and poems
- Verbally describe people, places and things to a group in Spanish
- Follow simple written Spanish instructions and interpret brief messages
- Identify and describe the main ideas, themes and characters in a Spanish-language story
- Read, write and demonstrate comprehension of short stories and poems in Spanish
- Learn the entire Spanish alphabet and numbers 1-100 in Spanish
Elementary school Spanish teacher salary projections
Salaries for elementary school Spanish teachers vary widely, depending on experience and the focus of the class. Spanish immersion teachers, for example, are paid an average $43,904, according to Glassdoor.com Here are salary estimates for elementary school Spanish language teachers:
- Glassdoor.com: $53,161
- PayScale.com: $44,409
- SalaryList.com: $45,047
Certification requirements for elementary school Spanish teachers
A state-issued teaching certificate or license is generally required to become an elementary teacher. Some private schools do not require a teaching credential as a job condition. Certain parochial, faith-based, schools require staff to have an advanced education in the subjects they teach.
Elementary school teachers generally are not expected to hold advanced degrees. Certification and licensing requirements for elementary teachers vary from state to state. Nearly all states require teachers to take professional development courses as a condition of certification.
Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.
Alternative certification is becoming increasingly popular. An estimated 20 percent of teachers enter the profession through nontraditional means. Because of fluctuating teacher shortages, states are offering alternative ways for people who already have bachelor’s degrees to become certified and begin teaching.
Middle school Spanish teachers
Middle school Spanish teachers generally work with students, ages 12 to 14, on introductory and intermediate Spanish. Although some students may have taken Spanish classes in elementary school, middle school teachers should be prepared to cover a wide range of language skills.
Click here for in-depth details about teaching Spanish in middle school
- What do middle school Spanish teachers do?
- Educational and certification requirements
- Salary and employment projections
- Pros and cons of being a middle school Spanish teacher
Middle school Spanish teacher job description
Middle school Spanish teachers generally teach grades six to eight. In some junior high schools, however, Spanish language instructors may teach seventh and eighth grades. Some private and parochial, or faith-based, intermediate schools include ninth grade as part of middle school.
Private and public middle school Spanish teachers are expected to work full-time schedules (generally from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday through Friday. In addition to teaching, Spanish teachers spend much of their time on lesson planning, grading papers and tests, and working with individual students as necessary to keep all students learning at grade level.
Spanish teachers are expected to have a strong command of vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure rules, with a systematic and consistent approach to teaching. Spanish teachers engage students in the language by conveying a passion for Spanish-speaking cultures. Most grammar instruction guidelines require a repetitious approach, with a teaching style that balances classroom participation against the tutorial needs of individual students if they fall behind.
Typical duties of a middle school Spanish teacher:
- Manage classrooms and implement procedures; work with school leaders and administrators to initiate policies and procedures
- Prepare and assign classroom lessons and homework; grade vocabulary and writing assignments; evaluate oral demonstrations of fluency
- Administer and grade tests while staying current with state and local standards for Spanish language proficiency at the middle school level
- Select and obtain reading, writing and other curriculum development materials, including textbooks, in accordance with local and state guidelines
- Develop curriculum expectation criteria, working within the parameters of state and local requirements, and provide diagnostic feedback
- Conduct periodic open-door classroom visitations for parents and guardians, and schedule parent-teacher conferences as needed
Middle school Spanish curriculum
Middle school Spanish teachers are focused primarily on vocabulary development, word memorization, sentence structure, and verbal exercises. They work with whole classes and individual students to promote correct grammar, punctuation and spelling while enhancing students’ knowledge and understanding of Spanish-speaking cultures.
Because some students enter middle school with an introductory knowledge of Spanish from elementary school, teachers should be prepared for classes comprising a range of students — from English speakers learning Spanish for the first time to bilingual English-Spanish students who are proficient in one or both languages. Bilingual students in middle school can be helpful to Spanish teachers in assisting other students. Conversely, students who are fluent in Spanish but not English can benefit from helpful bilingual students.
Here is a closer look at current Spanish curriculum goals for middle school:
- Teach Spanish grammar rules, spelling, punctuation and proper use of symbols, focusing on nouns, verbs, cognates and clauses, as well as the use of gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns.
- Apply word analysis skills to help students decode unfamiliar Spanish words, clarify meaning through context clues such as cause and effect, compare and contrast, and other word comprehension techniques.
- Teach and practice phonics, including phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence, spelling patterns, grammar and vocabulary rules through context clues and other recognition methods.
- Develop students’ Spanish vocabulary through oral exercises that focus on correct pronunciation, tone and cadence, verbal and written accents (tildes), including individual letters, formal and informal phrases.
- Create exercises so students can memorize numbers in Spanish; compare and contrast metric weights and measures; introduce students to one or more currencies of Spanish-speaking countries and make comparisons with U.S. monetary exchange rates.
- Teach language comprehension of simple themes and subjects by asking polite questions about family and friends; celebrations like birthdays, holidays and festivals; school activities and current events.
- Assign activities for students to practice writing simple stories in Spanish about personal background and goals, public events and activities that interest students and practice communicating stories aloud, one-on-one and in front of the class.
- Encourage students to exchange information in Spanish, express their opinions and feelings in Spanish, and accurately translate words, phrases and sentences from English to Spanish, and vice versa.
- Provide insights into the nature of the language, cultural concepts and viewpoints of Spanish-speaking countries, including individual values, familial attitudes and community mores; help students distinguish literal and nonliteral meanings.
- Assign individual and class projects that require researching subjects, writing and presenting analyses in Spanish about topics that demonstrate an understanding of Spanish through connections and comparisons to English and the United States.
How to become a middle school Spanish teacher: educational requirements
Middle school Spanish teachers are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, or another foreign language, accompanied by expert fluency in Spanish. They may have dual degrees in Spanish and English language arts, a second world language or other curriculum.
Spanish teachers often specialize in subjects such as Latin and various writing genres, like Spanish, British or American literature; public speaking and debate; fiction or autobiographical writing; social studies, history or mass communications.
Level of educational attainment for middle school teachers:
- Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
- High school diploma or equivalent: 0.3%
- Some college, no degree: 2.9%
- Associate degree: 1.9%
- Bachelor’s degree: 44.3%
- Master’s degree: 46.5%
- Doctoral or professional degree: 3.9%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for middle school teachers overall, and not Spanish specific.)
Certification requirements for middle school Spanish teachers
A state-issued teaching certificate or license is generally required to become a middle school Spanish teacher. Some private schools do not require a teaching credential as a job condition; however, certain parochial, or faith-based, schools require teaching staff to have an advanced education in the subjects they teach. Certification and licensing requirements for middle school Spanish teachers vary from state to state. Nearly all states require teachers to take professional development courses as a condition of certification.
Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.
Alternative certification is becoming increasingly popular. An estimated 20 percent of teachers enter the profession through nontraditional means. This is particularly true for world language instructors. Because of fluctuating teacher shortages, states are offering alternative ways for people who already have bachelor’s degrees to get certified and begin teaching.
People with English language arts, mass communications and journalism degrees — who are fluent in Spanish and well-grounded in grammar and expository writing — might consider teaching Spanish as an alternate career choice. After graduating from teaching certification programs, new Spanish teachers are mentored by an experienced teacher until they earn full certification.
Middle school teacher salary and employment projections
The salary for all middle school teachers across the United States ranges from about $42,000 to $56,000 based on estimates from 2010 to 2012. The average salary for middle school Spanish teacher jobs generally ranges from $35,000 to $48,000.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: $53,430 (all middle school teachers)
- Glassdoor.com: $47,577
- Indeed.com: $46,000
- Simplyhired.com: $35,000
The employment outlook for middle school teachers appears stable in certain regions, and the overall demand for teachers is stronger than for many other professions, according to the BLS. In some U.S. regions with a higher population of Spanish speakers, such as the Southeast, Southwest and West, job growth for middle school Spanish teachers is stronger than other parts of the country. Overall, the BLS estimates a 12 percent growth rate for all middle school teachers through 2022.
There are various explanations for why some middle school Spanish teachers reportedly earn more than their high school counterparts. The maturity level of high school students — particularly those in advanced foreign language courses — makes them easier to work with and more appealing to teach. Secondly, middle school Spanish and English language learners require teachers with extraordinary patience and methodical teaching skills.
Pros and cons of being a middle school Spanish teacher
- Teaching young students who are interested in learning basic Spanish, or as preparatory courses for advanced high school Spanish
- Advancing Spanish communications skills and cultural knowledge of Spanish-speaking countries while promoting cross-cultural relations
- Working in a profession that reflects the teacher’s passions for literature and writing, and other subjects related to Spanish-speaking cultures
- Working with students who have a range of Spanish-language abilities that can result in boredom, disinterest and misbehavior
- Adhering to administrative and classroom procedures that are sometimes bureaucratic and difficult to implement consistently
- Teaching students at a transitional age level that can make concentration in school difficult and cause students to be disruptive
High school Spanish teachers
High school Spanish teachers often work with highly advanced and sometimes gifted students who speak two or three languages. However, high school Spanish teachers should be prepared to teach introductory and intermediate courses as well.Click here for in-depth details about teaching Spanish in high school
- What do high school Spanish teachers do?
- Educational and certification requirements
- Salary and employment projections
- Pros and cons of being a high school Spanish teacher
High school Spanish teacher job description
High school Spanish teachers generally teach grades nine to 12, though some high schools start at 10th grade. In certain parochial, or faith-based, preparatory schools, teachers are expected to be more advanced.
Private and public high school Spanish teachers are expected to work full-time schedules (generally from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday through Friday. In addition to teaching, Spanish teachers spend much of their time on lesson planning, grading papers and tests, and working with individual students as necessary to keep all students at grade level.
Typical duties of a high school Spanish teacher:
- Work with colleagues, school leaders and administrators to implement policies and procedures — from roll call to emergency preparedness
- Develop a framework for teaching bilingual and biliterate Spanish courses for intermediate and advanced students that incorporates verbal and written instruction
- Organize and implement lessons, lectures and assignments in alignment with state and local academic standards for high school world language curriculum
- Prepare students for successful advancement through Spanish-language proficiency assessments that test their knowledge and ability to perform at grade level
- Work with individual students to assess progress, improve learning and testing performance, and achieve overall success as Spanish-language learners
High school Spanish teachers may be called upon to teach English language arts, yearbook and journalism classes. Some Spanish teachers may participate in bilingual publishing of school-sponsored newsletters, websites and social media pages. These teachers are a natural fit to lead Spanish clubs, advise students and help organize after-school activities — from debate team competitions and local field trips to spring break or summer vacation tours of Spanish-speaking countries.
High school Spanish curriculum
High school Spanish teachers may teach introductory, intermediate and advanced courses. However, they are generally responsible for teaching comprehensive knowledge and skills that lead to full fluency and familiarity with Spanish-speaking cultures.
In ninth grade, Spanish teachers continue to focus on grammar and sentence structure rules. As students progress from memorizing key words, phrases and rules toward conversational Spanish, they are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the language.
High school teachers give students expository writing assignments, classroom speaking and one-on-one conversation exercises to demonstrate their language acquisition skills and fluency in Spanish. They also introduce students to sophisticated reading materials, such as advanced Spanish literature, and more expansive writing assignments, like research papers that focus on contemporary topics, history, culture and current events of Spanish-speaking countries.
Experienced high school instructors should be prepared to teach college prep courses, such as College Board advanced placement (AP) classes. Spanish instructors who can teach these courses are in greater demand than teachers who don’t work with AP curriculum.
As students progress through 10th, 11th and 12th grades, they are usually given elective choices in Spanish courses. These courses can range from studying literature and plays, to analyzing satire and poetry, to public speaking and creative writing. This gives high school Spanish instructors a wide range of courses to teach, but it also requires a higher level of curriculum expertise that may require a master’s degree.
Here is a closer look at current curriculum goals for high school Spanish students. High school Spanish teachers can expect to:
- Assign advanced reading materials for fiction and nonfiction works, including age-appropriate Spanish-language literature, newspaper stories and magazine articles, online bilingual or Spanish website content.
- Identify and analyze Spanish word origins and derivations through the use of idioms, analogies, metaphors and similes that help students expand their vocabularies, hone word pronunciation and phonic skills and convey meaning.
- Develop advanced comprehension and understanding of themes, character development, setting, plot, tone, tension and conflict, and other literary devices that demonstrate persuasive writing techniques in Spanish.
- Promote Spanish as a bicultural language that integrates English language, math, science and other curriculum, supports academic advancement, and establishes benchmarks for bilingual students to achieve.
- Use Spanish-language literature, history, biographical and newsworthy texts, film and television, Internet, social media and other means to inspire students to evaluate information and express their ideas accurately in Spanish.
- Study and evaluate the context, pronoun familiarity and cultural appropriateness of word choices; master past, present and future tense in writing Spanish sentences; make connections between English and Spanish texts.
- Create reading, writing and oral assignments that incorporate different strategies for developing critical thinking skills, including asking and answering questions, analyzing information, making predictions and reasoned conclusions.
- Use tables, graphs, charts and maps to teach statistical, geographical and cultural facts that prompt students to make comparisons between people, places and concepts, interpret information and present conclusions in Spanish.
- Develop assignments that require students to write cogent and in-depth autobiographical Spanish narratives using accurate vocabulary, descriptive details, effective syntax and appropriate voice to articulate information.
- Adopt technologies like Internet research and video that incorporate other curriculum, such as history and science, and assist students in verbally articulating ideas and interpretations using advanced Spanish.
How to become a high school Spanish teacher: educational requirements
Spanish teachers at all levels are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, English language arts or another foreign language. Many high school Spanish teachers also hold master’s degrees, either in Spanish or another language or subject, such as history or social studies. Spanish teachers often specialize in literary genres, public speaking and debate, drama, short story or essay writing.
Level of educational attainment for high school teachers:
- Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
- High school diploma or equivalent: 0.2%
- Some college, no degree: 2.3%
- Associate degree: 1.5%
- Bachelor’s degree: 43.4%
- Master’s degree: 48.3%
- Doctoral or professional degree: 4.0%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for high school teachers overall, and not Spanish specific.)
Certification requirements for high school Spanish teachers
A state-issued teaching certificate or license is generally required to become a high school Spanish teacher. However, some private schools do not indicate a teaching credential as a job prerequisite. Specific certification and licensing requirements for high school teachers vary from state to state. Teachers are usually required to take professional development courses as a condition of certification.
Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.
Alternative certification is becoming increasingly popular, with an estimated 20 percent of teachers entering the profession through nontraditional means. Because of fluctuating teacher shortages, states are offering alternative ways for people who already have bachelor’s degrees to get certified to teach Spanish.
People with foreign language degrees who are presently working outside the education profession and who are well-grounded in Spanish grammar and expository writing, might consider teaching as a career change. These professionals, perhaps enticed by a standard workweek and two-month summer vacations, need to become certified before entering the education field. After graduating from certification programs, new teachers are mentored by an experienced teacher until they earn full certification.
High school teacher salary and employment projections
The salary for all high school teachers across the United States ranges from about $37,000 to $56,000 based on estimates from 2010 to 2012. The average salary for high school Spanish teacher jobs generally ranges from $36,000 to $50,000.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: $55,050 (all high school teachers)
- Glassdoor.com: $49,431
- Simplyhired.com: $38,000
- Indeed.com: $36,000
The employment outlook for high school teachers appears stable in certain regions, and the BLS estimates a 6 percent growth rate for high school teachers through 2022.
Pros and cons of being a high school Spanish teacher
- Working with teenage students who are genuinely interested in world cultures is personally gratifying.
- Teaching young people critical thinking and developing bilingual skills is rewarding for people who want to help students prepare for the world beyond high school.
- Working among colleagues with shared academic interests and career goals, and who can offer classroom management support, is an added incentive.
- Students who are peripherally interested in studying a foreign language in order to fulfill college entry requirements can be challenging.
- Salaries for high school teachers, particularly those who speak fluent Spanish, is relatively low compared to counterparts in other professions.
- A wide spectrum of students with different language skills and learning abilities can make teaching Spanish to high school students overwhelming.
Postsecondary/college Spanish teachers
Postsecondary Spanish teachers have opportunities to teach specific, narrowly focused curriculum. The study of Spanish literature and poetry, writing about specific cultures and countries — like Mexico, South and Central America, the Philippines, Spain, Latin-American and Caribbean islands — are just a few of the many subjects available to college students.
Click here for in-depth details about postsecondary/college Spanish teachers
- What do postsecondary Spanish teachers do?
- Educational and certification requirements
- Salary and employment projections
- Pros and cons of being a postsecondary Spanish teacher
Postsecondary Spanish teachers teach in lecture halls, medium-size classrooms and increasingly online, which many students find conducive to learning foreign languages. They specialize in grammar and sentence structure, literature and writing.
Postsecondary Spanish teacher job description
Postsecondary Spanish teachers cover the range of professional schools, junior colleges, state and private colleges, and universities. However, their audience comprises adults of all ages who are interested in speaking Spanish and learning grammar, literature and writing.
Postsecondary teachers have more flexibility over the format of their instructional methods than their K-12 counterparts. They also have greater control over their schedules, with many postsecondary instructors teaching part time, as well as full time. They have fewer classroom management and procedural responsibilities than grade school teachers but are expected to devote significant time preparing lectures and instructional guidelines for assignments, in addition to evaluating progress and providing individual assessments of students.
- Creating course outlines with curriculum parameters, assignment schedules, knowledge expectations and testing requirements to help students achieve optimum performance
- Preparing and giving lectures, leading Spanish and bilingual discussions and giving multimedia presentations that enhance student understanding of vocabulary, reading and writing concepts
- Grading term papers, tests and other assignments, particularly oral presentations and writing, which can range from short stories and nonfiction manuscripts to discussing current events
- Working with associates and department leaders to coordinate Spanish language arts curriculum; instructional best practices; assignments and tests; and department teaching goals
- Serving on academic and administrative committees and working with school provosts, department associates and staff on policy decisions that impact Spanish language arts learners
- Working within budgets and helping to support Spanish department objectives, best practices and school policies, with the overriding goal of promoting student learning
- Attending professional advancement seminars, symposiums and other events that expand knowledge of Spanish language arts, world cultures and contemporary teaching methods
And, specific to university professors:
- Conduct research to advance knowledge in their Spanish subject specialization and optimize technology and multimedia tools to enhance learning
- Publish books and articles, original research and analysis in academic journals to advance knowledge of foreign language instructional best practices
- Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees in Spanish or related concentrations such as other foreign language studies
Level of educational attainment for postsecondary school teachers:
- Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
- High school diploma or equivalent: 0.1%
- Some college, no degree: 2.6%
- Associate degree: 2.3%
- Bachelor’s degree: 16.0%
- Master’s degree: 35.6%
- Doctoral or professional degree: 43.3%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Data listed is for postsecondary foreign language teachers overall, and not Spanish specific.)
What about teaching Spanish online?
Today’s computer technology advancements, combined with the increasing demand for online college courses and Spanish-speaking employees, provide postsecondary foreign language teachers more career options than ever before.
As the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL) points out, technology advancements have opened new opportunities for postsecondary institutions and students to learn through hybrid and fully online courses.
Hybrid courses combine elements of traditional on-campus instruction with offsite, or virtual, classrooms that allow students to take courses according to their schedules, but within the parameters and learning guidelines established and managed by postsecondary schools — from junior colleges and technical institutions to public and private universities.
Along with online classrooms, today’s Spanish teachers have a multitude of media at their disposal, including real-time audio, face-to-face videoconferencing, and presentation tools that facilitate instruction of grammar, phonics, oral and writing exercises in ways that were impossible or cost-prohibitive until the 21st century.
Finally, many online instructors work in adjunct teaching roles. This means they work on a contract basis and are compensated per course. Some online adjuncts teach several courses for multiple schools and work enough hours to be considered full time. This can be an ideal arrangement for proficient Spanish instructors looking for multiple opportunities to teach their craft.
Bottom line: Online learning is here to stay; and, online learning is well-suited for Spanish and other world language students.
How to become a postsecondary Spanish teacher: educational requirements
Educational requirements vary with the type of postsecondary institution. Foreign language teachers who work at four-year colleges and universities are most often required to have a doctoral degree in their discipline. However, some schools may hire instructors with master’s degrees or those who are doctoral candidates for part-time positions.
Instructors with master’s degrees comprise the majority of full-time teaching positions at two-year colleges. Candidates holding dual master’s degrees have an advantage because they can teach more than one subject, including multiple foreign languages, as well as English, or concentrated courses like world literature and culture studies.
Many two-year institutions prefer applicants who have experience with distance learning or teaching, which is particularly relevant as hybrid and fully online classes gain popularity.
Doctoral programs for foreign language and literature generally take six to eight years to complete, including time spent earning a master’s degree and writing a doctoral dissertation. It is fairly common for students to conduct postdoctoral research for two additional years before they seek a part-time or full-time faculty position.
Postsecondary/college Spanish teacher salary and employment projections
Postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers earn a median salary of $58,670, according to BLS data for 2012. The statistics cover Spanish teachers working at colleges, universities and professional schools at the local and state levels, and for private institutions.
On average, university and four-year college teachers earn higher salaries than their counterparts at junior colleges. However, the BLS data reveal this is not necessarily the case for foreign language and literature teachers, who currently are in demand at the junior college level. This is particularly relevant for postsecondary Spanish teachers throughout the Southeast, Southwest, Pacific-western states, Texas and Nevada, where bilingual and other students, eager to learn Spanish, are on the rise.
The majority of job postings on online sites are for assistant professors, and the salary range depends on the institution and whether the job is for a visiting instructor or a tenure-track position.
- Glassdoor.com: $46,972 to $74,771 for assistant professors
- SimplyHired.com: $60,000 median
- Indeed.com: $40,000+ for assistant professors
- SalaryList.com: $26,220 to $82,198
Employment of postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers is projected to grow 15 percent, according to BLS data.
Employment by industry for all postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers:
- Junior colleges (private and public): 7.0%. Annual mean wage of $75,290
- Colleges and universities (private and public): 7.0%. Annual mean wage of $67,000
- Other schools and instruction (private and public): 1.2%. Annual mean wage of $50,980
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
A note on tenure: For postsecondary teachers, a significant goal in the traditional academic career is the attainment of tenure — a contractual agreement that makes it very difficult to dismiss a professor without just cause. The tenure process can take up to seven years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The tenure track begins with assistant professor, then associate professor, and finally full professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching abilities. However, institutions are relying more heavily on limited-term and part-time faculty contracts.
Pros and cons of being a college Spanish teacher
- Becoming an expert in a foreign language that is increasingly accepted and valued in the United States and is ranked second only to Chinese in fluency throughout the world
- Working with students who share a passion for speaking Spanish, and view teaching Spanish as a career choice or recognize that being bilingual opens doors to other opportunities
- Cultivating opportunities to publish and work toward tenure, including writing literary, autobiographical and nonfiction, or even through documentary film or other multimedia platforms
- Building collaborative relationships with associates by attending professional conferences, symposiums, and instructor exchange programs devoted to Spanish language arts best practices
- Teaching college students is demanding; it requires long hours devoted to course design, curriculum preparation, reading and grading essays and multimedia projects as well as oral presentations
- The sometimes bureaucratic policies on campuses of higher learning can be frustrating for foreign language teachers, who may feel inhibited by structured and highly competitive environments
- The competition to achieve tenure and get published is intense at most postsecondary schools, and the demanding nature of the publishing community requires persistence and fortitude
- The salaries for college professors are relatively low compared to some college graduates with Spanish degrees who can earn higher wages in the private sector or government agencies
Professional development for Spanish teachers
The increasing presence of bilingual print, online websites, streaming video, radio and TV broadcasting in the United States gives Spanish teachers a wide platform to find information, practice reading and listening to the language, and hone their own bilingual skills.
Professional associations for Spanish instructors offer webinars, correspondence courses, one-day seminars, symposiums and other continuing education opportunities to help teachers advance their knowledge of Spanish literature and writing subjects, improve teaching skills and broaden their scope of educational best practices. These are terrific platforms to enhance one’s understanding of Spanish language arts concepts while meeting like-minded professionals and improve their resumes, professional profiles and social media pages.
For teachers interested in pursuing advanced degrees, Spanish is ideally suited as a supplement to journalism, archaeology, marketing, public relations, web publishing and various professions that require interpreters and translators. Primary incentives include expanding knowledge of particular subjects — like play writing, speech therapy, or English as a second language (ESL) — while remaining competitive as bilingual experts in the job market.
Benefits of continuing education
BLS statistics reflect that professionals with a master’s degree have a greater chance for promotions and an increase in salaries. This is particularly true for foreign language teachers and among schools with an abundance of bilingual instructors who have bachelor’s degrees. The difference in salary between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree for a novice teacher is $3,000 annually. After 10 years of experience, the bump increases to $4,500, according to BLS data.
Continuing education is a great way to keep a career on track, expand knowledge, remain competitive, and increase one’s real value in the jobs market.
What kinds of graduate programs can help Spanish teachers?
Studies reveal positive correlations between a teacher’s subject-specific expertise and student achievement. These findings suggest that not all degrees are created equal, and that Spanish teachers seeking graduate studies should look for programs that help elevate their world language expertise.
These recommendations reflect two significant trends in primary education today, both of which are reflected in Pew Research studies. First, the rise of natives from Spanish-speaking countries throughout the United States — but especially in the South and Southwest and along the West Coast — creates a demand for teachers who can address the needs of Spanish-speaking families.
Secondly, the increase of ESOL students, whose primary language is Spanish, throughout U.S. public schools — particularly in preschool and grades K-8 — creates employment opportunities for bilingual teachers who are fluent in both English and Spanish.
By focusing on advanced degrees in ESOL, early childhood education or educational leadership, Spanish teachers can position their careers for future advancement in areas that are presently in demand.
ESOL students and graduate studies for Spanish teachers
In a typical ESOL class, students concentrate almost exclusively on English. They are rarely, if ever, given opportunities to speak their native language.
By taking Spanish, in addition to ESOL curriculum, Spanish-speaking students can compare and contrast their native language to English. This is especially helpful in distinguishing English and Spanish syntax and sentence structure rules, as well as understanding word meanings and customs, such as addressing strangers with formal nouns and using gender-specific (masculine and feminine) pronouns in Spanish.
However, this requires Spanish teachers to be patient with ESOL learners. They must be capable of integrating students whose primary language is either English or Spanish. An added advantage to enrolling Spanish-speaking learners in Spanish classes is they can help nonnative students better master the language, while simultaneously receiving assistance learning to fluently speak and write English.
Professional associations for Spanish teachers
Spanish teachers can join professional associations to become better educators and to network with other like-minded individuals. Here are some associations that benefit Spanish teachers as well as other foreign language instructors:
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
Modern Language Association
World-class Instructional Design and Assessment
Association of Departments of Foreign Languages
Related careers: jobs for Spanish teachers outside of school
More than 10 percent of the U.S. population speaks Spanish at home, a 2013 Pew Research study found. And the number is growing not only among native Spanish speakers but also among people who trace their heritage to non-Spanish-speaking countries.
Population changes and hiring trends, reflected in Pew Research and other studies, show increased demand for bilingual workers. These include supervisors and managers who speak Spanish and English.
Some jobs, like translator and interpreter, do not require much additional training beyond the expertise that is generally required of a Spanish teacher with a bachelor’s degree.
Existing Spanish teachers who are considering a career change, as well as aspiring teachers seeking teaching jobs in highly competitive markets, may consider applying their knowledge and skills to other relevant careers. Spanish teachers can seek employment opportunities that require professionals who can explain complex concepts — such as fluctuating mortgage loan rates, property assessments and taxes, and complicated health insurance policies — to native Spanish speakers.
Alternative career choices for Spanish teachers include:
- Translator and interpreter
- Healthcare administrative assistant
- Bank loan officer
- Real estate agent
- Retail store manager
- Human resources specialist
- Social services coordinator
- Vocational guidance counselor
Best of the Web: our favorite Spanish teacher websites and Twitter handles
Spanish teachers embrace the Internet and social media with a passion. Educators with current blogs, Twitter pages and lesson-planning websites aimed at Spanish language students are among today’s most active — and technologically adept — teachers.
The web is ideal for Spanish teachers as a tool for research, lesson planning and presentations. Here are some useful websites and Twitter resources:
Favorite Spanish teacher websites
Fun for Spanish Teachers
Teaching Spanish: Thematic & Authentic
The Comprehensible Classroom
Flipping my Spanish Classroom/
Williamson CI & TRPS
Resources and Ideas for Language: Teachers
Teaching a World Language
Favorite Spanish teacher Twitter handles
Sharon Birch: @sraslb
Elizabeth Dentlinger: @SraDentlinger
Kristy Placido: @placido
Allison Wienhold: @SraWienhold
Carrie Toth: @senoraCMT
Crystal Barragán: @srtabarragan
Lisa Stevens: @lisibo
Tadina Ross: @Spanish_Simply
Cynthia Hitz: @sonrisadelcampo
Sara-Elizabeth Cotrell: @SECottrell