Opportunities Abound for Bilingual Workers

By: Kelli Smith

Adding skill with multiple languages to an existing education can only improve a resume with potential employers. The demand for speaking and writing skills in multiple languages drives the employment search across a variety of careers, and workers with bilingual proficiency enjoy the benefits.

Bilingual Workers Meet a Growing Demand
Hispanic and Asian populations in the U.S. are expected to triple over the next fifty years, according to population projections by the U.S. Census Bureau. With the number of non-Hispanic whites dropping to one-half of the total population by 2050, the American demographic is expected to look vastly different.

In this evolving cultural picture, bilingual workers in skilled trades become more and more valuable. Opportunities for Spanish speakers can be easily found in finance, social work, business, and healthcare. On the West Coast, job seekers speaking Japanese, Chinese, and Mandarin are looking more attractive to prospective employers.

Popular Industries for Bilingual Workers
From translation to tourism, government to healthcare, trained bilingual workers are seeing more career opportunities than ever. Here are just a few of the most popular industries for workers with bilingual skill:

&bull Law Enforcement
&bull Civic Organizations
&bull Social Service Agencies
&bull Banks and Financial Institutions

Bilingual employees may enjoy higher salaries than those who only speak one language. In law enforcement, it is common to see hiring bonuses for bilingual workers in addition to monthly stipends.

High-Tech Bilingual Careers
As the world becomes more dependent on technology, the need grows to translate it to a wider audience. A day in the life of a bilingual IT worker may involve:

&bull Working with a Spanish-speaking client in a tech support environment
&bull Translating help files and user guides for global product releases
&bull Creating software applications tailored to a worldwide market

Specialized jobs in technical writing, customer service, and software development benefit greatly from multiple language support, and bilingual ability is typically preferred by potential employers.

Healthcare and Social Services Careers
Careers in healthcare can be lucrative and rewarding and, for bilingual workers, they may be easier to find. Jobs in hospitals, private offices, and public clinics can be enhanced by bilingual workers, who provide a necessary skill in communicating with patients who do not speak English.

In the social services industry, workers trained as cross-cultural counselors, social workers, and case workers can use their bilingual skills to communicate with a wider range of clients.

Bilingual Ability in the Business World
"Bilingual and bicultural Latinos can offer valuable assets to any firm wishing to compete in the global market," says Graciela Kenig in her book Best Careers for Bilingual Latinos. Investment firms, import/export companies, and marketing firms traditionally have a strong need for workers that can add multiple languages to their proficiency in business. Typical tasks for a bilingual employee in business might include:

&bull Translating internal documents for localization
&bull Hosting clients or guests from foreign offices
&bull Creating marketing materials to appeal specifically to Hispanic or bilingual culture

Consulting is another popular field for workers with bilingual or multilingual proficiency. Bilingual consultants bridge the gap between clients and business operating in two separate cultures. The consulting field is expected to grow faster than average in the next decade, as the U.S. moves further into the global market.

TEACH Grants for Bilingual Teachers
Bilingual teaching is always an in-demand career, but many students don't know that they can drop their federal student aid debt by taking on a career in bilingual education. Obtaining a TEACH Grant may mean up to $4,000 per year for higher education, if students intend to teach in a bilingual education program after graduation.

Federal Student Aid Cancellation
When federal student aid debt comes from Perkins Loans, a teaching career may mean loan forgiveness. Each year a teacher serves full time in a public or nonprofit elementary school in foreign languages, bilingual education, or other high-need areas, a percentage of Perkins Loan is canceled:

&bull 15 percent canceled per year for the first and second years of service,
&bull 20 percent canceled for the third and fourth years, and
&bull 30 percent canceled for the fifth year.

After five years of service, the total Perkins Loan debt is forgiven. Working to educate the next generation is its own reward, and canceling student debt is just another incentive to begin a career in education.

Enhance & Market Bilingual Ability
Workers with proficiency in multiple languages are a valuable asset across industry, but it's up to the individual to prove their value to prospective employers. Here are a few tips bilingual workers can use to highlight and enhance their skills:

&bull Highlight bilingual ability in the interview. Language skills should always be noted on a resume, but prospective employees should also note proficiency during a face-to-face interview.
&bull Combine a bilingual background with education. Education remains a standard for employers, and prospective employees should note any career training, college, or university education.
&bull Improve written skills in both languages. Bilingual workers may be expected to use their second language in speech and writing. Taking advanced language classes can improve the written skills of native speakers, further enhancing marketability to employers.

Analytical Thinking in the Bilingual Workforce
The benefit of bilingual employees goes deeper than language. Bilingual people use different frames of reference to approach problems, thereby increasing analytical ability. "Bilingual and bicultural people see things from a different angle," notes Octavio Mateo, human relations manager for Citibank, in Best Careers for Bilingual Latinos.

Enhancing bilingual ability with formal education may be the most efficient way to attract attention in job interviews. While bilingual skill cannot guarantee a particular career or salary, workers who know how to market their language ability show an added dimension of their ability to prospective employers.

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