Online language degrees and certificate

May 23, 2019 · 9 min read · By ASU Online
The versatility of a language degree can help open a myriad of doors to potential careers. Having a language background can help you develop useful expertise applicable in a number of industries, leading to opportunities in publishing, writing, teaching or translation, among many others. The flexibility of these degrees and certificates can also prepare you for emerging career fields, such as digital or social media marketing, or growing fields like technical writing. More than just building your proficiency in English or Spanish, language studies programs often give you instruction in speaking, writing and improving your ability to express yourself.

With so much variety in applicable fields for students earning a language degree, the professional landscape extends to almost every industry. However, English graduates frequently gravitate toward positions as educators, from elementary school teachers to college professors. It’s also not uncommon for individuals to pursue additional education or work experience to build upon a Bachelor of Arts in English before entering into the legal field as attorneys or judges or tackling business opportunities at the management level. With all these possibilities, those with English degrees earn an average salary of nearly $70,000, according to Data USA.

The number of English graduates in the workforce is steadily growing as well. Data USA notes the rate has risen almost 3.5 percent in recent years. This may be a result of the projected job growth in popular fields such as education and technical writing. Across the board for most educators, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated between 7 and 8 percent job growth from 2016 through 2026. Post-secondary teachers have an even higher estimated increase at 15 percent. This growth is attributed to both rising student enrollment and a large number of teachers reaching retirement.

Growing at a slightly higher rate of 11 percent according to the BLS, the technical writing field will see 5,700 new jobs between 2016 and 2026. With the continuing expansion of scientific and industrial products in everyday life, as well as an increase in web-based product support, job prospects for these professionals with additional technical competencies are improving.

Another area to consider when pursuing a language degree is working with those whose first language is not English. Teaching English as a second language to young students or adults requires a combination of language proficiency and communication skills so you can teach others to speak, read and write in English while effectively interacting with them as they learn. This can require you to utilize nonverbal communication methods to convey your lesson to students who haven’t yet mastered English language abilities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 4.7 million English language learner students were enrolled in public schools in 2015. Additionally, adult English language learners make up 40 percent of the national adult education population, based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Education. If you’re interested in working with English language learners, you can acquire strategies to help your students, child and adult alike, function better in their jobs and daily lives.

To take advantage of potential jobs related to language arts, you must prepare for whichever professional direction is most appealing. An online language degree or certificate can help you gain the necessary expertise to prepare for a variety of career options in almost any industry. From education to publishing to business and beyond, these programs can serve as the starting point to building the right proficiencies for success, and ASU Online has several options for you to consider.

An English teacher writes on a chalkboard.

Bachelor’s degrees

Knowing which careers you may want to pursue upon graduation can influence where you start your college education. The versatility of a bachelor’s degree in English or Spanish can help prepare you for various fields you may want to enter.

English (BA)

The Bachelor of Arts in English program can prepare you for careers in several areas, including business, professional and technical writing, publishing and education. It can also help you establish base competencies if you’re considering continuing your studies in graduate or professional programs.

Courses for the bachelor’s degree in English focus on critical reading and writing with the opportunity for you to pursue specific topics in literature, linguistics, and creative and nonfiction writing. A combination of traditional and contemporary themes is also woven in throughout the experience.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Literature analysis.
  • Linguistics.
  • Composition.
  • Medical writing.
  • Digital narratives.

Because English majors gain knowledge that can assist them in reaching their professional aspirations in a variety of fields, graduates can consider a long list of possible jobs. A bachelor's degree in English online can prepare you to think, read and write in ways that make effective communication easier regardless of the industry you’ve chosen. From a teacher engaging students to a writer conveying a message to readers to a business person presenting to colleagues, an English degree can foster the necessary proficiencies.  

  • Possible careers include:
  • Teacher/professor (with additional education or certification).
  • Copywriter.
  • Translator.
  • Technical writer.
  • Communications specialist.

Spanish (BA)

Leading to a wide range of possible career options, from working in the foreign services to serving as an interpreter or translator, the Bachelor of Arts in Spanish online program can give you the opportunity to become a proficient reader, writer and speaker of Spanish while simultaneously developing your connection to the culture. This program offers tracks for students to specialize their studies, including Spanish linguistics or Spanish literature and history. Students who earn their bachelor’s degree in Spanish may also have the ability to work toward relevant professional certifications, such as Spanish-to-English translation.

With a curriculum composed of relevant language, writing and history courses, students can practice their developing language competencies, learn the basics of effective communication in any language and delve into the cultural context of Latin traditions in America through text, mass media and ongoing social debates.

  • Courses cover subjects including:
  • English composition.
  • Spanish language.
  • Linguistics.
  • Spanish conversation and composition.
  • Hispanic/Spanish literature.

Popular fields for individuals with this degree to explore include education, government, communications and business. Within each industry, multiple types of opportunities can arise, from teaching at any level to working abroad for the government or a corporation.

Possible careers include:

  • Teacher.
  • Intelligence officer.
  • Translator or interpreter.
  • International business professional.

Master’s degrees

Regardless of where your professional career has taken you, an advanced degree can further your job prospects or even help you shift to a new field. Not only can it expand on the expertise you’ve already been building, but a graduate program can also give you a chance to specialize your knowledge and become a more appealing candidate when seeking a promotion or new job opportunity. There’s even the possibility of an increase in salary once you’ve earned your master’s degree.

English (MA)

To enhance your writing, communication and critical thinking proficiencies, the Master of Arts in English online program can provide you the ability to take English courses that interest you and even pair them alongside those in a transdisciplinary area of study, if you choose.

The program focuses on five core areas:

  • Approaches to research.
  • Comparative literature.
  • English studies.
  • Literature.
  • Writing, rhetoric and literacy.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Literature.
  • Writing.
  • English education.
  • Foreign language.
  • Cultural studies.

The program concludes with a capstone seminar in the last semester of study, helping you to critically reflect on and apply what you’ve learned throughout your courses.

Many students pursuing their master’s degree in English are already working full time, and this additional degree can aid in their chances of getting promoted or make their candidacy more appealing for another position in their industry.

Possible careers include:

  • Editor.
  • Educator.
  • Writer.
  • Researcher.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL)

Establishing a foundation in the principles and practices of helping others learn English as a second language, the Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is designed for those interested in becoming English language teachers. Whether you have the desire to teach in the U.S. or abroad, this program can prepare you to enter or advance in this growing field.

The program focuses on four main areas central to teaching ESL:

  • Language.
  • Learning.
  • Research methods.
  • Teaching practices.

Within this framework, students can go on to study topics ranging from computer-assisted language learning to intercultural rhetoric. Core courses, electives and research courses comprise the bulk of the program, with an internship and capstone project rounding out the degree.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Approaches to research.
  • Linguistics.
  • Second-language acquisition theories.
  • Methods of teaching English as a second language.

Possible careers include:

  • Foreign language or literature teacher.
  • Interpreter.
  • Translator.

Curriculum and instruction – educating multilingual learners (MA)

For professionals such as teachers, policymakers, administrators or community workers who may be interested in teaching English language learners, the Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction – educating multilingual learners can provide you with strategies for developing expertise in teaching multilingual students how to read, write and listen. You can also learn how to involve the communities and families in students’ educational experience. Furthermore, the program stresses the importance of gaining knowledge of past and current policies toward educating multilingual learners.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Language assessment and evaluation of ESL/BLE students.
  • Sociolinguistic issues in bilingual education.

Possible careers include:

  • Teacher.
  • Translator or interpreter.
  • Speech-language pathologist.
  • Career/technical educator.
  • ESL administrator.

Additional certification may be necessary for those interested in this career path who aren’t yet certified teachers.

Graduate certificate

Educating multilingual learners (graduate certificate)

New and experienced teachers, administrators and policymakers can develop additional, specialized skills with the online educating multilingual learners graduate certificate. This program can help students learn methods and theories related to teaching English language learners of all ages in various settings. Students can also learn past and present ESL policies and strategies for community involvement.

Courses cover subjects such as:

  • Biliteracy development.
  • Language assessment.
  • Sociolinguistic issues.

Catering to English teaching professionals throughout a variety of roles, this program not only helps you develop strategies to build ESL skills but also provides a historical perspective of English learners and policy.

Possible careers include:

  • Foreign language teachers.
  • Adult literacy teacher.
  • Translators.
  • Speech-language pathologist.
  • Career/technical educator.

Earning an online language degree or certificate with ASU

Catering to the assortment of possible careers you can pursue if you’re interested in a language degree, ASU Online programs feature options for building your expertise in English or Spanish, as well as learning to teach non-native English speakers how to communicate in the language. Not only do these programs provide you with multiple choices to consider when thinking about the right degree or certificate for your future career plans, but each one can also help you enter a career in a number of fields. Whether you’re considering education, business, technical writing, publishing or even the legal or medical fields, an ASU Online language degree can position you for professional achievement.

Note: Program details are subject to change. Current information can be found by visiting individual degree pages on the ASU Online website.


English by DataUSA
Education and Training for High School Teachers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education and Training for Middle School Teachers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education and Training for Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook for Post-Secondary Teachers by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook for Technical Writers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Digest of Education Statistics — English language learner students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools by the National Center for Education Statistics
The Facts on Adult English Language Programs by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Occupational Outlook Handbooks for Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
ASU Online – Online Language Degree Programs
A female teacher gives language lessons to a male student at a desk.


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