Study Spanish: Master's Degree, PhD & Online Program Info

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What will you learn in a Spanish graduate degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD degrees and potential careers.
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Spanish: Degrees at a Glance

Graduates of Spanish PhD programs typically pursue careers in academia, while master's degree holders may work in various positions in government, social services, business or international trade. The demand for translators and interpreters was expected to grow by 42% from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS anticipated that job prospects would be most positive for translators of frequently translated languages, including Spanish. Depending on the nature of your graduate degree program, you will likely choose to receive comprehensive training in the culture (particularly literature) or linguistics of the Spanish language.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? - Students with bachelor's degrees who want to specialize in Spanish linguistics or literature
- Individuals who want to eventually pursue a PhD degree
- Master's degree holders
- People who want careers in academia, research or policy
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Interpreter or translator ($50,600 - may vary with experience)*- Postsecondary foreign language and literature professor ($66,700 - may vary with experience)*
Time to Completion Approximately 2 years (full-time)Approximately 4 years (full-time)
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Thesis, if applicable
- Pass master's exams
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Meet GPA requirements
- Pass qualifying exams
- Complete teaching or research assistantship, if applicable
- Coursework
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Meet GPA requirements
- GRE scores, if required
- Letters of recommendation
- Prerequisite courses may be required for students who do not meet admission requirements
- All of the master's requirements, plus:
- All transcripts from undergraduate and graduate programs
- Interview, if applicable
- Proficiency in Spanish
- Writing sample
Online Availability Yes Not widely available at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).

Spanish Master's Degrees

As a student in a Spanish master's degree program, you will likely choose a focus (language or literature) and a track (thesis or non-thesis). Regardless of your preferences, you will typically develop the skills required to succeed in various career paths or prepare for doctoral study. Although curricula vary based on the school and degree program, Spanish master's degree programs generally emphasize language proficiency, research skills and cultural understanding.

Pros and Cons


  • Master's degree programs may not require a prerequisite bachelor's degree in Spanish. However, students who do not meet admissions guidelines may need to take prerequisite courses.
  • You will likely need a master's degree in Spanish to gain admission into a Spanish PhD program.
  • According to the BLS, the demand for Spanish language interpreters and translators in the workforce was expected to be very strong because of an expected increase in the population of Hispanics in the United States.*


  • If you want a career as a postsecondary foreign language professor, you will most likely need a PhD.
  • A master's degree is not required for working as a translator or interpreter, so you may be considered over-educated for some positions.
  • Experience is an important qualification in this field. If you attend a master's program immediately after undergraduate studies, you may be delaying valuable on-the-job experiences.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

To graduate with a master's degree in Spanish, you need to satisfy requirements such as coursework, master's examinations and possibly a thesis. If you are not on a thesis track, you will have to take additional courses to satisfy your remaining credits. Depending on the nature of your degree program, coursework can focus on language or literature topics, including Spanish culture, Latin American literature, advanced Spanish grammar and topics in Hispanic literature.

Online Degree Options

Similar to traditional on-campus programs, online programs may require applicants to select an area of interest. Online programs that do not include a thesis track may require only coursework and examination requirements. The admissions and graduation requirements of online degree programs are typically very similar to their on-campus counterparts. In some cases, online degree programs may have slightly stricter admissions requirements, such as a requiring a prior bachelor's degree in Spanish.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Some schools offer teaching assistantships to qualified master's candidates. You may also consider specializing in a concentration with a promising employment outlook that can open more doors during your job search. For example, consider supplementary courses in healthcare. The BLS suggested that job opportunities for interpreters and translators should be plentiful in healthcare settings because of the need for Spanish-speaking patients to understand medical information.

Spanish PhD Degrees

PhD programs aim to train students in the advanced study of Spanish language and literature. Spanish PhD programs typically prepare students for careers as researchers, professors and policy experts. To successfully graduate from a Spanish language or literature PhD program, you will need to complete academic courses and pass preliminary examinations in your field, as well as research, write and present an original dissertation. Typically, PhD programs emphasize individual study and scholarly research, so students are generally able to design a customized curriculum based on their personal interests.

Pros and Cons


  • A PhD is widely considered the best academic credential for demonstrating mastery in your field.
  • Teaching assistantships may be available on a competitive basis.
  • A PhD is necessary for independent research and for college teaching positions.


  • A PhD is not necessary for work as a translator or interpreter; according to the BLS, a bachelor's degree tends to be the baseline.
  • If you have a PhD and less than several years of work experience, you may be considered over-educated.
  • In academia, job security is typically only available through tenured positions, which are highly coveted and very competitive.

Common Courses and Requirements

To obtain a degree, you will need to complete coursework and maintain a satisfactory grade point average. In a Spanish literature program, you will likely study a variety of regional works and time periods, including Iberian literature, colonial Spanish American literature and 18th-21st century Peninsular literature. In a linguistics program, your courses may include Spanish syntax, phonetics and language acquisition.

In addition to coursework, you will likely need to pass qualifying examinations and complete research papers, including an original dissertation that you must research, write and present to a faculty panel. Depending on the nature of your program, you may also need to demonstrate knowledge in Portuguese (and possibly other languages, such as Latin) and complete a teaching or research assistantship.

Online Degree Options

Currently, online Spanish PhD degrees are not widely available. If you find an accredited online program, consider that you may need access to an approved site where you can conduct research.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Because work experience is essential in the field of interpreting and translation, consider opportunities where you can work or volunteer in a professional setting. For example, if you want a career as an interpreter, consider volunteering with a reputable organization, such as the American Translators Association, to gain practical, real-world experience in your field. If you want to work as a professor, consider tutoring in your spare time.

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