Globalization has led to a lot of interesting situations from a social standpoint, one of them being the opportunity everyday to interact with people from a variety of cultures all over the world. This has resulted in a huge need in the US for people who are able to speak languages besides English, and -- especially given the US' proximity to Mexico, the world's largest Spanish-speaking country -- one of the most useful of these languages is Spanish.
American jobs for Spanish speakers come from a variety of different industries, and can include obvious careers like translating and teaching to less obvious positions like sales or social work. With Spanish speakers needed in so many different fields, it can be difficult to settle on one specific job.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Spanish Language Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
Most skills that come from having studied a second language -- which Spanish may or may not be for a Spanish Language Major, depending on their background -- have to do with the ability to look at communication itself from a critical standpoint. Learning a second language can make it easier to learn other languages down the line, but more critically, it makes a person more likely to think about the words that they use on a daily basis in a critical way.
This ability to speak and think critically is useful for a variety of industries, but particularly lends itself to jobs that are based in one way or another around communication, such as teaching, sales, translation, writing, and other similar careers.
Let's take a closer look at what some of these Spanish Language skills look like:
Any job you can find with a Spanish Language Major is likely to depend almost entirely on your ability to communicate with others. This can include teaching someone another language, writing or translating in Spanish, or trying to reach a particular Spanish-speaking demographic for marketing purposes.
In general, learning a second language lends itself to having a strong ability to look at things analytically. This comes back to the idea of communication, and specifically understanding that speaking in a language is a form of a discourse with certain rules and structures -- an understanding which can make it easier in the long run to identify similar structures and analyze ideas or concepts in the same way.
In a job that requires you to be bilingual, you'll also need to have excellent multitasking skills. With any career in this field, you'll often find yourself having to think on multiple levels at the same time. For example, you might find yourself in a translation position that requires you to read or listen to something in one language and then quickly and accurately translate it into another.
There are a number of internships available to those trying to get a Spanish Language degree, typically related to either teaching basic ESL courses or assisting in translating for more established workers in the field.
While these can all be extremely useful experiences, the most important thing one can do to get a leg up in the Spanish Language field is to immerse themselves in the language itself through studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country or by otherwise being able to spend a significant amount of time communicating with native speakers.
Getting a job in the Spanish Language field is contingent upon your command of the language, so it is imperative for all non-native speakers to spend a certain amount of time becoming comfortable speaking the language fluently.
Before you settle on an internship or study abroad program, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Jobs for Spanish teachers are typically rooted in their ability to speak Spanish as a second language, or as a first language with a second language being something relevant. It is difficult to get Spanish language-related job where Spanish is your only known language, but there are some cases where it is possible. A teacher of Spanish-language literature, for example, might sometimes fall under the purview of a Spanish Language major.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Spanish Language Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Spanish Teachers help students learn the meaning of both the Spanish language as well as, at higher levels, Spanish-language literature. In college or upper-level high school, classes between the language and the literature are differentiated.
Spanish interpreters are hired in one of two ways; by travellers or public speakers to translate their employer's words as they are spoken, or to translate a text or series of works.
Adjunct Professors are non-tenure track faculty that teach classes at the college level. A PhD may be required for certain subjects, but for others a Master's or even a Bachelor's may be sufficient depending on the school.
If you're looking for jobs teaching Spanish in the United States, you should bear in mind that prospects aren't great for teachers right now. There aren't a lot of jobs out there, and competition for the few that exist is fierce. But if you're lucky (and qualified) you may just be able to land a tenure track position.
For those having difficulty finding jobs, becoming an adjunct instructor for a university or community college might be a good alternative in the meantime. The pay and job security are both low compared to a tenure-track position, but it can help pay the bills while you wait for a better position to open up for you elsewhere.
Another option is to look at teaching ESL abroad in a Spanish-speaking country -- or, if you don't mind letting your Spanish get a little rusty, teaching ESL abroad anywhere you can find work. South Korea in particular is known for paying a high salary to its ESL teachers, and most programs provide benefits including paying for your housing and travel, allowing you to pocket the majority of your paycheck rather than having to spend it on the usual monthly expenses.
Internships are still a great way to go for jobs as an interpreter. They have the benefit of giving you an excellent amount of industry experience while also letting you start networking in the industry of your choice.
In terms of actually working in the industry, the two main kinds of translators are freelance and in-house translators. In-house translators work for a particular company doing full-time work, while freelancers are hired for individual projects, typically work at home, and are able to set their own hours. Both have benefits and drawbacks -- in-house translators typically have more stable jobs, a set salary, and office space, while freelancers are able to work from anywhere and have a great deal of freedom in what kind of projects they undertake.
Internships can help you get in-house positions in some cases, but freelancing is something you can start at any time. The highest paying jobs will require you to be certified by the American Translators Association (ATA), but if you're unable or unwilling to go that route, you'll still find plenty of work as an uncertified translator.
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
After acquiring a strong command of the Spanish language itself, the Spanish Major tends to focus on a mix between linguistics and literature, particularly at the higher levels like the Master's or the PhD.
For the most part, the difference between the Master's and the PhD is the same as with most other majors -- get the Master's if you plan on staying in the field but would like a bit more expertise and a nice pay bump, or go for the PhD if you prefer research, teaching at the college level, or otherwise working in academia. Master's programs in this field are also often used as stepping stones into PhD programs.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Spanish Language degree normally consider:
Master's in Spanish Language
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The AATSP is a professional organization for Spanish and Portuguese language teachers that offers education and networking opportunities, publications, awards, and other membership benefits.
The ACTFL is another professional organization, this one focusing less on the Spanish language specifically and more on the teaching of foreign languages in general. Like the AATSP, it also offers membership benefits such as educational opportunities and other resources.
The ATA is the accepted organizational body that provides certification to translators in order to maintain professionalism in the industry as well as look out for the rights of working translators.
Enter "Spanish Language" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.