What Is a Spanish Degree?

| Melissa Sartore

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A Spanish degree helps students develop Spanish language fluency and understand Hispanic history and culture.

A degree in Spanish teaches individuals to read, write, and translate in Spanish. Learners also gain insight into the heritage and history of Spanish-speaking countries. A bachelor's degree in Spanish often incorporates study abroad opportunities, allowing students to learn through immersive language experiences.

A degree in Spanish blends linguistic, literary, and cultural coursework to prepare students for careers in education, hospitality, healthcare, and business. Whether a learner is a native Spanish speaker or new to Spanish, earning a degree in Spanish is personally, practically, and professionally rewarding.

What Kinds of Spanish Degrees Are There?

Available undergraduate and graduate degrees in Spanish vary by school and program. Associate degrees in Spanish introduce learners to the fundamentals of language and literature, while bachelor's degrees often allow students to customize coursework by dialect and culture. Master's and doctoral degrees allow learners to further specialize in aspects of Spanish language and culture, often through research or translation projects.

Spanish students typically study the culture of peninsular Spain, Latin America, South America, and other parts of the world that have been historically and linguistically influenced by Spain. Students can often also specialize in regional distinctions in peninsular Spain, such as Andalusia and Castile. Similarly, students can focus on Spanish-speaking areas like Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and South America.

A Spanish degree is a pathway to careers as teachers, translators, academics, and travel agents. Spanish majors can also pair their coursework with classes in business and health services to build skills applicable to careers in finance, accounting, and healthcare.


Associate Degree in Spanish

An associate degree in Spanish teaches students to communicate within the Spanish-speaking world. Coursework also emphasizes appreciation and understanding of Spanish culture and tradition. Even native Spanish-speakers can hone their skills through an associate program.

Associate degrees in Spanish typically include two years of coursework. An accelerated program may allow learners to earn a degree in as few as 18 months.

An associate degree in Spanish can prepare learners for roles as translators in business settings, teaching assistants in Spanish-speaking classrooms, or as medical transcriptionists who specialize in Spanish. Graduates can also transfer into four-year bachelor's programs.


Bachelor's Degree in Spanish

A bachelor's degree in Spanish typically takes four years to complete. Students study fundamentals of the Spanish language alongside Spanish literature and cultures. Introductory classes emphasize conversation skills, reading and writing in Spanish, and building vocabulary. Students also become familiar with different Spanish dialects while learning about cultural differences within the Spanish-speaking world.

Bachelor's degrees in Spanish culminate in a final project, an oral exam, an undergraduate thesis, or some combination of these requirements. Many bachelor's degrees in Spanish also offer study abroad options.

It is common for students to double major in Spanish and another discipline. By combining Spanish with a degree in business, education, public administration, or social work, learners can enhance their employment opportunities in those fields. Career options include high school teacher, translator, and social worker. A bachelor's degree in Spanish also qualifies students to pursue a graduate degree in Spanish.

Spanish Study Abroad Programs

Most programs do not require Spanish majors to study abroad, but it is encouraged. Studying abroad immerses students in Spanish culture and language. Study abroad options may include living with a family or living on campus at a partner institution. Organizations and companies like IES Abroad and EF Educational Tours offer scholarships to students interested in studying abroad.


Master's Degree in Spanish

A master's degree in Spanish includes roughly two years of coursework. Many programs also incorporate research and a thesis option. Earning a master's degree in Spanish benefits current high school teachers of Spanish and other professionals who want to work with Spanish-speaking demographics. Common concentrations in a master's program in Spanish include individual Spanish or Latin American dialects, cultural linguistics of Spanish, and Spanish literature.

With a master's degree, individuals can work as Spanish instructors in higher education, as Spanish interpreters, and in publishing. A master's degree in Spanish also prepares students for a doctorate in Spanish.


Doctoral Degree in Spanish

A doctorate in Spanish builds upon existing expertise in Spanish language, history, or another aspect of Hispanic culture. With a Ph.D. in Spanish, students can teach at colleges and universities, take an administrative role with an international organization, and work as Spanish-language researchers. Other career options include author and translator.

Doctorates in Spanish typically take 3-5 years of coursework and research. Seminar and lecture coursework leads to comprehensive exams and a dissertation. Within a Spanish doctoral program, students can specialize in topics like linguistics, history, or literature.

Accreditation for Spanish Programs

Most colleges and universities hold national or regional accreditation. The accreditation status of an institution applies to all academic programs offered by the school, and it also influences financial aid eligibility, transfer options, and overall program reputability. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for liberal arts degrees, like Spanish. Always research a school's accreditation when choosing a Spanish degree.

Alongside national and regional accreditation, many academic programs also maintain programmatic accreditation. While no programmatic accreditation exists for Spanish degrees, dual-degree learners should consider programmatic accreditation for programs in education, business, or another field. For example, schools that prepare teachers of foreign languages are accredited by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

What Can You Do With a Degree in Spanish?

Career paths for students with Spanish degrees span economic sectors. Individuals can pursue jobs in travel and tourism, work with government agencies and bodies, or teach in a classroom. Learners with degrees in Spanish can also work in publishing, journalism, and healthcare.

Multilingual individuals are in high demand in the United States. According to a 2019 report from the ACTFL, Spanish tops the list of languages most needed by American employers.

Tourism

A degree in Spanish prepares learners to interact with individuals from around the world. For example, the communication skills gained through an undergraduate degree in Spanish can lead to a career as a tour guide with private tourist companies and educational organizations. Additionally, Spanish-speakers can find opportunities to travel the globe as flight attendants for private or commercial airlines.

Spanish programs also benefit individuals who work in office settings within the tourism industry. Spanish skills help customer service representatives, hotel managers, and salespeople who work with tourists and travelers. Additional training may be required for some of these roles.

Government/Politics

An undergraduate degree in Spanish qualifies graduates for positions within government agencies as diplomatic aides or community and public service professionals. Proficiency in Spanish is ideal for learners who want to work in immigration and customs, law enforcement, intelligence, or translation services.

Graduate degrees in Spanish can build additional expertise for students who already have undergraduate degrees and training in law, public administration, and information technology — which can all lead to careers that benefit from Spanish-language skills.

Education

With an associate degree in Spanish, learners can work as tutors, teaching aides, or classroom translators. To teach Spanish at the elementary, middle, and high school level in the United States, students need at least a bachelor's degree. Most states require a teaching certificate as well.

Alongside teaching Spanish, individuals with a bachelor's degree in Spanish can work in bilingual classrooms and with native Spanish-speakers as they learn English. Advanced degrees in Spanish can open opportunities to teach Spanish at community colleges and four-year institutions.

Business

Spanish degrees allow business professionals to communicate with foreign clients and colleagues. An associate degree in Spanish prepares students to work as bilingual customer service professionals, while a bachelor's degree in Spanish can lead to a job overseas in international sales, account management, and human resources.

Graduate degrees in Spanish often include coursework that emphasizes Spanish business practices, cultural norms, and even technical jargon. This enables learners to work as executives in Spanish-speaking organizations and businesses, as international consultants, and as international corporate representatives.

What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Spanish Degree?

Spanish degree-holders may pursue a range of careers. In addition to positions in education, business, and tourism, individuals can find employment in digital and print media, healthcare, and social and public service.

Salaries for students with degrees in Spanish vary by industry and level of education. The high demand for bilingual and multilingual employees bodes well for individuals with bachelor's degrees in Spanish. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are projected to see 20% job growth between 2019 and 2029. Secondary and postsecondary educators with Spanish degrees are also projected to see increased job opportunities.

Spanish Career Outlooks
Career Median Annual Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Degree Required
Sales Managers $132,290 4% Bachelor's
Medical and Health Services Managers $104,280 32% Bachelor's
Foreign Language and Literature College Professors $80,790 9% Doctorate
Social and Community Services Managers $69,600 17% Bachelor's
High School Teachers $62,870 4% Bachelor's
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers $55,350 -10% Bachelor's
Legislators $33,200 6% Bachelor's
Interpreters and Translators $52,330 20% Bachelor's
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts $49,300 -11% Bachelor's
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Promoting the study and teaching of Spanish and Portuguese since 1917, AATSP offers advocacy programs, publications and resources, and online and in-person learning opportunities — all to facilitate its dedication to multilingual education, diversity and inclusion, outreach, research, and collaboration. Members have access to publications, the career center, and teaching and learning materials. Founded in 1967, ACTFL unites 13,000 language educators and administrators with professionals from government and business settings. ACTFL provides professional development and career resources, networking resources, publications, and support from like-minded individuals who are dedicated to meeting the language needs of students and professionals. The MLA supports the study and teaching of languages and literature across disciplines. The MLA provides members with publications and newsletters, access to the MLA handbook, reduced fees for online and in-person events, and voting opportunities within the organization. Additional resources include career listings, infographics, and information about MLA grants and awards. The largest professional association in the world dedicated to the study of Latin America, LASA provides a media repository, an online site for publishers and exhibitors, and a career center with advertising opportunities. Members can join at the individual level to access collaboration opportunities, engage with fellow scholars, and apply for grants and fellowships.

Frequently Asked Questions

true Can I Get a Spanish Degree Online?

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish online. Coursework and other degree requirements usually mirror those of on-campus programs.

Are You More Likely to Get a Job if You Are Bilingual?

Proficiency and fluency in a foreign language can increase career options. Many industries seek out bilingual employees to work in positions of all levels.

What Are High Paying Jobs for Spanish Majors?

High paying jobs for Spanish majors include translators and interpreters, postsecondary teachers, and meeting and event planners. These positions are also expected to see job growth between 2019 and 2029.

What Is the Difference Between Spanish and Hispanic Studies?

A degree in Spanish emphasizes language and linguistics with additional classes in Spanish culture, history, and literature. Hispanic studies programs focus on literary and cultural aspects of Spanish-speaking communities, though they often also build Spanish language knowledge and skills.

Melissa Sartore holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her BA and MA in history are from Western Illinois University. A medievalist by training, she has published on outlawry in medieval England with additional publications on outlaws in popular culture and across geographic and historical boundaries.

Header Image Credit: xavierarnau | Getty Images

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