Bilingual people are in a unique position to get paid to use their language skills. The growing ethnic population in the United States, along with increasing global trade and communications, has created a demand for interpreters, mediators, and bilingual employees in many professions. The growth in bilingual jobs has been nothing less than astounding.
Many regions of the United States are considered strong multicultural markets. Fluent Spanish is often a criterion for employment in areas with a strong Hispanic presence. In particular, with over 40 million Hispanics living in America, Spanish could be considered the country’s unofficial second language. More than one and a half million new people are born into the Latino community annually. For example, in Southern California it is a distinct employment advantage to be bilingual in English and Spanish. Companies in these areas need to hire people who understand the language and culture of the people with whom they are dealing. As a result, the demand for bilingual employees—those fluent in both English and Spanish—is growing at an amazing rate.
However, Spanish is not the only language in high demand. All business sectors are experiencing a significant upswing in the demand for applicants fluent in other languages. Many companies have presences and clients across the globe and want their employees to be able to communicate in Asian and European languages. Applicants who speak Mandarin and/or Japanese are highly regarded among many employers in the United States. These particular bilingual jobs can pay very well.
What it Means to be Bilingual
Completing two semesters of college French generally does not make a person bilingual. The key to bilingualism is fluency in two languages—usually English and one other language. A person who is fluent in three or more languages is multilingual. The most common way of achieving bilingualism is being raised in an environment in which both languages are used. Although it is certainly possible to develop language skills later, doing so requires a lot of work in order to develop fluency, which most bilingual jobs require.
Common Bilingual Jobs
The changing demographics of the United States have created new employment opportunities for bilingual individuals. Government departments at every level are increasingly relying on bilingual employees to smooth the flow of information while minimizing conflict. For example, police departments use bilingual officers to carry out a variety of work in communities. In addition, paramedics and other rescue workers must regularly communicate in another language in order to save lives. Meanwhile, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other professionals require bilingual individuals to meet specific community and client needs.
Various marketing and advertising jobs are available to bilinguals, whose skills are needed for advertising campaigns targeting specific ethnic groups. Call centers are another vital growth area for bilingual jobs. Publishing companies regularly employ translators to translate books, while training and education companies as well as appropriate government regulatory bodies employ bilinguals to conduct workplace training to ensure employees fully understand safety regulations as well as their rights and responsibilities.
Bilingual? Employment Opportunities Are Beckoning!
Bilingual jobs are clearly necessary in communities where English is not the dominant language. Without a doubt, community service organizations must employ bilingual social workers, case workers, and counselors in order to meet the needs of families and individuals with mental health, family crisis, and financial management issues. Many customer service occupations such as bank tellers and loans officers require the ability to communicate with Latino or other ethnic customers, resulting in banks and other financial institutions employing bilinguals to meet their clients’ needs. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals are increasingly advertising for bilingual employees since the ability to communicate with people in their native tongue improves service as well as reduces the risk of inappropriate treatment. Patients must understand the instructions doctors give them and the right dosages of prescription required.
In fact, all employment sectors require bilinguals in an increasingly global business environment as well as to meet the needs of ethnic communities within the United States. The employment sectors with the greatest number of bilingual jobs are healthcare, social services, financial services, sales and marketing, and government. In addition, new job types are emerging due to population changes, such as cross-cultural counselors and bilingual teachers. Clearly, being bilingual is increasingly an advantage in the United States.
Skills and Education
Every bilingual job has its own education and skills requirements as well as its own set of responsibilities. Applicants need to have all the general qualifications and skills for a particular position, such as a law degree to become a lawyer or a business degree with an accounting major to become an accountant. Job responsibilities are primarily the same as positions that do not require bilingualism. However, a bilingual position has additional responsibilities of communicating and assisting clients, students, patients, etc., who speak another language. Applicants also have to complete recording and reporting responsibilities related to such communication.
A Winning Edge
For the most part, being bilingual will give you access to employment opportunities not available to those without the required language skills. However, this does not always equate to a higher salary than the non-bilingual position normally pays.
In addition, bilingual applicants are seen as an asset in non-bilingual positions. Even if a job does not specifically advertise the need to be bilingual, applicants who are fluent in a second language have a significant advantage during job interviews and should emphasize this skill in their cover letters, résumés, and interviews. Many recruiters prefer to hire someone with this added skill over the person who doesn’t possess it because it provides yet another potential resource for the business.
America’s changing demographics and the increasing importance of international trade have created newly emerging and growing opportunities for bilingual job seekers. Whether businesses are seeking to serve domestic clients better or improve international business relationships, they are recognizing the importance of communicating with people in their native languages. For bilinguals, this means more opportunities (and less competition) to utilize their expertise.