Languages & Cultures 


Areas of Focus:

  • Spanish: BA, MA, PhD, Minor
  • Portuguese: Minor

Department Website

Degree Requirements 

Sample Four Year Plan

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is a vibrant and diverse community of innovative scholars and students that are deeply engaged in the study of the languages, cultures, societies, literatures and arts of Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula and the growing U.S. Latinx population.

Teaching lies at the core of the department’s mission, and they are committed to providing an excellent education and an intellectually stimulating environment to all students by focusing on critical thinking and communication skills (written and oral) and their application in today’s real-world global setting. 

My graduate degree in Spanish at CU Boulder propelled my career and serves me every day at work. Employers look for constant learners who challenge the status quo, but who can also grasp trends and outliers, present and write with clarity, and manage complex projects. These skills helped pivot my career. They now allow me to move with confidence in the software industry, which moves fast, and requires analysis and decision-making on data even faster."

Adam Carroll, director of customer success at New Relic, a software analytics company in San Francisco

The study of a foreign language is an important component of a liberal arts education. In a world where most people speak a language other than English, proficiency in a foreign language allows you to take the fullest advantage of opportunities to understand the culture, history and literature of another country. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the U.S.; another reason why a Spanish major can be extremely useful!

As a Spanish major, your first priority will be to write and speak Spanish at a sufficient level to allow you to participate in critical discussions as well as write critical essays. The ability to read sophisticated Spanish texts at a level at which literary analysis can be performed will come next. 

You will also become acquainted with the history of Spanish and Spanish-American literature, and develop a familiarity of the major creative writers. Along with the study of literature comes an awareness of the social and historical contexts in which particular literary traditions developed.  

Modern language laboratories and media are used to provide a basis for discussion. However, there is no substitute for close teacher-student interaction in foreign language instruction; therefore, most instruction is carried on in lecture-discussion format classes.

The department offers a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree in Spanish. You have the option of either pursuing a language and literature option, Spanish and Portuguese language and culture option, or an option in international Spanish for the professions. This latter includes courses in business, economics, and math, among others.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese contains a number of research areas stretching across the different programs, including hispanic linguistics; medieval and early modern literatures and cultures; modern latin american literatures and cultures; modern peninsular literatures and cultures; and Portuguese.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and interested in research or scholarly work, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • It is strongly recommended that as a Spanish major you include some study in a Spanish-speaking country as part of your undergraduate program. In conjunction with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the CU Boulder Office of International Education offers a program of particular interest to Spanish majors in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The university also offers programs in Alicante, Granada, Madrid and Sevilla, Spain; and in the Latin American countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.
  • You will have access to state-of-the-art language instruction technology at the Anderson Language Technology Center (ALTEC).
  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • Majors may choose to seek honors in Spanish, resulting in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. Look into this program early as it often involves special coursework, research or a thesis. 
  • Spanish is one of the languages available to students involved in the CU Boulder Modified Foreign Language Program. This program is designed for students who have exceptional difficulty with foreign languages. For more information, call the Office of Advising for the College of Arts and Sciences at 303-492-7885.

A degree in Spanish provides students with the skills, information, and concepts relevant to careers in virtually every area. It also offers exciting career possibilities, both in government and private industry, at home and abroad. Some possible careers include translation, interpretation, education, business, journalism and media more broadly, and global affairs. If interested, the Spanish program also provides the background necessary for advanced study and specialization in Spanish.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2017-18 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital: 

  • the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and 0-5 years of experience is $41,100;
  • median salary for 10-plus years of experience, $65,600.

Estimated Spanish Salary Info

At CU Boulder, Spanish graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $76,010 based on a pool of 416 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. That amount, however, is below the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for language translators and interpreters will be 17 percent, higher than the 7 percent average for all jobs.

The Spanish and Portuguese department has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Adam Carroll (PhD '14) is director of customer success at New Relic, a software analytics company in San Francisco.
  • Dana Page (BA '14) is an account executive at SHI International Corp., a technology company in Austin, Texas.
  • Luis Hernán Castañeda (PhD '12) is assistant professor of Spanish at Middlebury College.
  • Shauna Polson (MA '10) is an educational technology specialist with the Boulder Valley School District.
  • Leela Greenberg (BA magna cum laude '11) is a global leadership associate at Alibaba Group, a multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology conglomerate, in Hangzhou, China.