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PhD in Spanish: Degree Program Information and Requirements

Students with a proficiency for the Spanish language and culture can choose between linguistics or literary options when pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Spanish. Explore the two programs and get important job information.

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Essential Information

In a Spanish Ph.D. program, a linguistics option emphasizes the components of the Spanish language, while a literature option explores important literary texts that were written in Spanish. Both types of Ph.D. programs can prepare graduates for postsecondary teaching positions, as well as translation work. Online learning options typically are not available for either type of Ph.D. program, since students must perform in-depth language studies and practice their skills with peers and faculty members.

A Ph.D. program in Spanish consists of 36-40 semester hours, typically taking 3-5 years to complete and often requires a dissertation. Although some degree programs in Spanish offer a dual master's/Ph.D. option and require only a bachelor's degree for admission, most schools require a master's degree to be considered for doctoral candidacy. The major should typically be in a Spanish-related field, such as Spanish history, Spanish literature or comparative literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Students with an academic background outside of Spanish can still qualify for admission providing they're fluent in Spanish and have taken appropriate prerequisite coursework.

In addition to necessary courses, most schools require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), transcripts showing a minimum grade point average, an audio recording of a student's conversational Spanish-speaking ability and a research-based writing sample in Spanish.

Individuals can also find a variety of language-related Ph.D. programs that allow them to study a similar language like French. Students might also pursue a broader doctoral degree program that focuses on the literature or languages of several countries. There are various advanced programs, such as a Ph.D. in French, Ph.D. in Classics, Ph.D. in European Students or Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, which can prepare graduates for postsecondary instruction.


Ph.D. in Spanish, Linguistics Option

Students who choose to focus on linguistics can learn about the nuances of the Spanish language and the dialects used around the world. Emphasis is typically placed on understanding the language at its root level, with students investigating structure and speech patterns. Students also analyze how Spanish continues to evolve through cultural exposure to other languages, distance from the country of origin of the native speaker and sociolinguistics in relation to a person's educational background and social status.

Candidates are expected to speak Spanish fluently prior to enrolling; however, additional language lessons are included in doctoral curricula. Some Spanish linguistic course topics include:

  • Articulation
  • Phonology
  • Syntax
  • Phonetics
  • Dialects and usage

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Ph.D. in Spanish, Literature Option

Students who make literature their emphasis primarily study works of fiction, including novels, short stories and poetry written by authors with Spanish or Latin American backgrounds. Students focus on analysis, comparison and research while investigating themes, such as colonial and post-colonial experiences, gender, race, social constructs, oppression and exile. Because the native Spanish-speaking world spreads across three continents, students are offered a broad literary understanding of the differences that arose from the expansionist era.

Students can use selective coursework and research opportunities to study specific subjects within Spanish literature. Some course topics include:

  • Spanish poetry
  • Iberian drama
  • Spanish-American literature
  • Short stories
  • Spanish modernism
  • Portrayals of women

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

An individual who earns a Ph.D. can often teach that subject at the college level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for foreign language and literature teachers at the postsecondary level as of May 2015 was $61,380, though salaries can vary greatly by school, experience and location (www.bls.gov). Employment opportunities for these postsecondary teachers were projected to increase 11% between 2014 and 2024.

Popular Career Options

With a Ph.D. in Spanish, graduates of both the linguistics and literary tracks can pursue teaching careers at high schools, colleges and universities. Those who choose linguistics could also seek out research positions in language usage, while graduates with a literary emphasis might find opportunities researching and translating works of Spanish fiction. Some possible job titles for those who studied Spanish linguistics could include:

  • Spanish language instructor
  • Spanish translator
  • Spanish language researcher

Students desiring to earn a Ph.D. in Spanish can choose a degree in linguistics to focus on the language or a degree in literature to focus on written works in Spanish. Graduates can expect positive job growth as postsecondary educators or can choose to work as translators and researchers.

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