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Foreign language instructors teach a second language to students in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as in universities and private language schools. They also might work independently as private teachers or tutors to individual students or with a small group. With the technology advances available in 2011, foreign language teachers also have the ability to teach students on the Internet via audio calls, video chats and multimedia presentations. If you want to become a foreign language teacher, you'll typically need a college degree focusing on the language you wish to teach, excellent foreign language skills and, for some institutions, specific certifications.
To become a foreign language teacher in an elementary, middle or high school, you'll need a bachelor's degree in the language you want to teach and a teaching certificate for your location. The bachelor's degree typically includes an emphasis on education and requires a field placement that includes a period of student teaching. You'll take basic through advanced courses in the language of study and might have the opportunity to study abroad in a country that speaks your second language. Most degree programs help you meet the requirements for getting a teaching certificate in your state; however, you'll also need to take state assessment tests based on the grade levels you plan to teach.
If you want to become a foreign language teacher in a college setting, you will need at least a master's degree in the language you want to teach or an advanced degree in education. A master's degree usually lets you teach undergraduate students, although some universities prefer that their professors have doctoral degrees. If your master's degree is not specific to the language you're teaching, you might be able to teach the subject if you take a specific number of additional graduate courses in the language. Students who are in doctorate programs also might have earned enough credits to meet the requirement.
Private institutions and language schools have their own requirements to become a foreign language teacher. Many of them require that you have a college degree, pass a language assessment and go through the company's personalized certification program. The certification program usually includes training on the company's teaching methods and often uses computer-based training modules. If you plan to work as a private teacher or tutor, your language abilities alone may get you a job, but your students might prefer someone with a college degree.