What is a Spanish Language Degree?

Spanish degree programs teach students how to speak, read, and write Spanish. Some programs focus on Spanish literature and others on the study of the linguistic structure of the Spanish language. Programs that include both a literary and a linguistic component are quite common. Some schools offer specific degrees in Spanish translation and interpretation.

Because of these concentration options, Spanish degree program courses vary. The following are some sample classes:

  • The Structure of Spanish
  • English/Spanish Comparative Grammar
  • English/Spanish Translation
  • Spanish Conversation
  • Spanish for Business
  • Hispanic Culture
  • Spanish Renaissance
  • Latin American Novels

Program Options

Notes:

  • Spanish degree programs often include an option to complete part of the curriculum abroad.
  • Many students who major in Spanish complete a double major. This provides them with another skill and prepares them for jobs in a wider range of fields. Some examples are combining Spanish studies with a second major (or minor) in business, economics, political science, international relations, or education.

Associate Degree in Spanish – Two Year Duration
An Associate Spanish Degree prepares students for a limited number of entry-level positions. Possible roles include Spanish tutor or Spanish-speaking salesperson, customer service representative, or tour guide.

At this level, coursework focuses on the fundamental structure and patterns of the Spanish language. The typical curriculum combines classroom instruction with language lab time, during which students have the opportunity to interact with native Spanish-speaking tutors.

Here are sample courses from the associate curriculum:

  • Beginning Spanish – reading, writing, and speaking Spanish
  • Intermediate Spanish – second-level course that introduces students to more complex oral and written material
  • Business Spanish
  • English to Spanish Translation – Introduction
  • Spanish / Latin American Cultures

Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish – Four Year Duration
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, graduates qualify for a variety of roles, especially if they have completed a double major or a major/minor curriculum. Depending on their specific degree, they may find employment in fields like business, media/communications, human resources, or teaching.

The typical Spanish Bachelor’s Degree includes courses like these:

  • Introductory Spanish
  • Intermediate Spanish
  • Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
  • Introduction to Spanish Literature
  • Spanish Conversation
  • Spanish Composition
  • Spanish Phonetics – the sound system of Spanish
  • Grammatical Analysis of the Spanish Language
  • English to Spanish Translation
  • History of the Spanish Language
  • Teaching Spanish as a Second Language
  • The Modern Latin American Novel
  • Latin American Poetry and Theatre

Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation – Four Year Duration
At many schools, the Spanish translation/interpretation program is a separate and distinct program from the linguistics/literature option. It, of course, prepares students to work as English/Spanish and Spanish/English translators and interpreters. Translators must be able to write well in the target language. Interpreters must be able to translate in both directions without using dictionaries or other reference material. Consecutive interpreters wait for the speaker to pause and translate what has been said. Simultaneous interpreters translate in real-time. They hear the message in the source language, process it, and simultaneously (in about five to 10 seconds) output in the target language the translation of the speaker’s words.

Graduates of these programs often work for professional translation/interpretation services or as freelancers. Their services are needed at intercultural/international conferences and meetings. Working as an interpreter for the United Nations (UN) is particularly highly-regarded.

In addition to providing basic training, Spanish translation and interpretation programs often offer specializations:

  • Specialization in Technical Translation
  • Specialization in Editorial Translation
  • Specialization in Social and Institutional Translation
  • Specialization in Interpreting

Courses include:

  • Catalan Language for Translators and Interpreters
  • Spanish Language for Translators and Interpreters
  • Technologies of Translating and Interpreting
  • Language and Translation
  • History of Translating and Interpreting
  • Information Science Applied to Translation and Interpretation
  • Cultural Mediation in Translating and Interpreting
  • Theory of Translating and Interpreting
  • Inverse Translation
  • Initiation to Interpreting
  • Initiation to Specialized Translation
  • Terminology Applied to Translating and Interpreting
  • Consecutive Interpreting Techniques

Master’s Degree in Spanish – Two Year Duration
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Spanish may work as educators, business professionals, or public servants.

At the master’s level, students focus on a specific track of study such as Spanish linguistics, Spanish literature, or Latin American literature. Classes may include:

  • Spanish Phonetics
  • Spanish Phonology
  • Spanish Morphology
  • Spanish Syntax
  • Spanish Semantics
  • Spanish Sociolinguistics – the study of the Spanish language in relation to social factors: region, class, dialect, gender, bilingualism
  • Ancient Spanish Literature
  • Contemporary Spanish Literature

Master’s Degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation – Two Year Duration
Holders of this degree often translate / interpret within specific fields such as science, medical, legal, business, or literary. Some schools offer a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation. The program is aimed at training translators and interpreters in the fields that most often need translation services.

Translation and interpretation master’s students continue with the concentration they chose at the bachelor’s level:

  • Specialization in Technical Translation
  • Specialization in Editorial Translation
  • Specialization in Social and Institutional Translation
  • Specialization in Interpreting

Here are some sample classes offered in these master’s programs:

  • Translation, Interpreting, and Intercultural Studies
  • Public Service Interpreting
  • Legal, Technical, and Audiovisual Translation
  • Consecutive Interpreting
  • Simultaneous Interpreting
  • Areas of Research in Translation and Interpreting

Doctoral Degree in Spanish – Three to Five Year Duration
A Ph.D. in Spanish can open many career doors. Students with this graduate degree often teach at the university level. With the appropriate background, they may qualify for roles in business and international relations.

Doctoral programs in Spanish are research-intensive and students often work as teaching assistants while they earn their doctorate. Each curriculum will vary depending on the chosen concentration. However, most programs require that students become proficient in an alternate language.

Common classes at this level include:

  • Methods for Teaching Spanish
  • Spanish Literature – Theory and Criticism
  • Spanish Culture
  • Latin American Culture
  • Romance Languages – Comparative Grammar

Doctoral Degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation – Three to Five Year Duration
The Ph.D. in Spanish Translation and Interpretation is a research degree. Students in doctoral programs:

  • study language and translation theory
  • examine Hispanic history and culture
  • assess Spanish translations from both linguistic and literary points of view
  • translate numerous writings in preparation for their thesis
  • perform consecutive and simultaneous interpreting

Degrees Similar to Spanish Language

Foreign Languages and Literatures
Students who pursue a Spanish degree are typically interested in other languages as well.

Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of the evolutionary history of people, how they interact, how they adapt to various environments, and how they communicate and socialize with one another. The link to language and to linguistics – the nature and structure of language – is evident. In fact, many anthropologists are trained in linguistics.

Mass Communication and Media Studies
Communications is concerned with how people collect, share, and use information. It combines elements of the social sciences and the humanities to study how humans communicate. While the field explores traditional and interactive media, it also examines language and how we use it.

Comparative Literature
This field studies the literature and literary traditions of two or more different countries, cultures, or languages. Examples of courses in comparative literature are literature of the Americas, literature of China and Japan, romanticism, and tragedy.

Education
Individuals who consider earning a Spanish degree often think about teaching the language. The processes of Spanish language learning and teaching are naturally linked.

European Studies
This is a broad based field of study. It includes European languages, history, art, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, and geography.

International Business
Students of international business study business from a global perspective. They learn how to work cross-culturally, how to manage multinational businesses, and how to turn local and national companies into international corporations. Coursework often includes some foreign language studies, as well.

Latin American Studies
Degree programs in Latin American Studies focus on the study of the language, culture, society, political systems, geography, and history of Latin America.

Linguistics
Linguistics explores the nature of language variations and dialects, how language evolves over time, how it is processed and stored in the human brain, and how it is acquired. It is the scientific study of language and communication, both within a single language and across language groups. Its primary sub-areas are phonetics – the study of the production, acoustics, and hearing of speech sounds; phonology – the patterning of sounds; morphology – the structure of words; syntax – the structure of sentences; semantics – meaning; and pragmatics – language in context. These sub-areas of linguistics are the foundations of foreign language learning.

Skills You'll Learn

The process of learning Spanish – or any other second language – is a workout for the brain. Because language learning is complex, it improves cognitive skills and overall brain function. Quite simply, it makes the brain stronger. This means that graduates of a Spanish degree program bring more than their language competency to their work. Studies have shown that adult speakers of more than one language typically:

  • have higher general intelligence
  • are more creative
  • are more patient
  • are better listeners
  • have better concentration abilities
  • have greater mental flexibility
  • are better at planning and making decisions
  • score higher on reading, vocabulary, and math tests
  • are more aware of their surroundings
  • are more likely to understand different points of view
  • are less likely to fall for marketing ploys
  • are better at multi-tasking
  • have better memory and memorization skills

What Can You Do with a Spanish Language Degree?

Graduates can work in several different areas. Please note that some roles – especially more senior ones – may require education in addition to an undergraduate or graduate degree in Spanish. For example, students who wish to teach Spanish may need a teaching certificate as well as a Spanish language degree. Those who are interested in working as a foreign correspondent may choose to combine Spanish and journalism studies. And those who are attracted to the fashion industry may complete a double major in Spanish and fashion buying/merchandising, for instance.

Translation and Interpretation
Holders of a degree in Spanish translation and interpretation may find opportunities to translate and/or interpret for various sectors, including government departments and agencies, law and courts, healthcare, publishing, and conferences.

Business
This sector is far-reaching and many businesses seek bi- or multi- lingual employees. Some examples are sales, customer service, banking/finance/foreign exchange, manufacturing, engineering, import/export, international relations, and administration.

Communications / Media / Entertainment
Knowledge of Spanish is valued in several roles in this sector: foreign correspondent, journalist, video crew, broadcaster, publisher, proofreader, film production.

Culture / Travel & Tourism
Businesses in these sectors consistently need Spanish speakers. They include airlines, airports, tour companies, travel reservations services and websites, hotels, event planning companies, and museums.

Education
Possible positions are high school Spanish teacher and university Spanish professor.

Government
Governments are one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills. In the United States, Spanish is particularly valued in positions in the armed forces, the Foreign Service, immigration and customs, law enforcement, security, and intelligence.

Non-Profit
These are just some of the volunteer programs, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations that often seek bilingual English/Spanish speakers: the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Care International, Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, UNESCO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the American Red Cross.

Tuition

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