Latin American History Certificate and Degree Program Summaries

U.S. students wishing to study Latin American history probably will be best served by entering a Latin American studies program. Undergraduate certificate programs, bachelor's, and master's degree programs are available; each provides varying levels of expertise and opportunities for graduates.

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Essential Information

Latin American studies is an interdisciplinary academic field focused on the examination of Latin American history, economics, politics, art, anthropology and culture.

Undergraduate certificate and bachelor's degree programs give students a general overview of the history of Latin American countries and peoples. Master's degree students choose an area in which to focus their studies, and complete independent research in addition to advanced coursework. Graduate students often choose a specialty (e.g., the history of particular region).

Undergraduate Certificate Programs in Latin American Studies

An undergraduate certificate is usually awarded in addition to a student's selected major, and may require proficiency in a relevant language. Through coursework, an undergraduate certificate program in Latin American studies gives students solid knowledge of the history of various parts of the region.

A few classes one might expect are:

  • Mexican history
  • Mayans and Aztecs
  • Identity in the post-colonial Caribbean
  • Beginning and intermediate Spanish
  • The Cuban revolution

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Latin American Studies

Students in these programs are expected to gain written and spoken fluency in a second language, such as Spanish or Portuguese. A typical bachelor's degree program combines a general liberal arts curriculum with a core curriculum in Latin American studies. A student then selects elective courses and may choose to concentrate on history.

Some examples of classes are:

  • Colonies in Latin America
  • Mayan civilization
  • Puerto Rican history
  • The U.S. and Mexico border
  • Slavery in Latin America

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Master's Degree Programs in Latin American Studies

Entrance into a master's program requires a bachelor's degree in a related field as well as proficiency or fluency in one or more Latin American languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, or Haitian Creole. The successful completion of a master's degree often requires the completion of a thesis. Coursework in a master's degree program in Latin American studies usually focuses on a student's chosen area of interest.

Some possible courses are:

  • Haitian history
  • Portuguese
  • Conflict resolution in Latin America
  • Guatemalan culture and religion
  • Latin American economics

Popular Careers

There is an almost endless variety of career options available for graduates holding a certificate in Latin American studies. An individual's chosen career path will, of course, relate to their major. For example, a graduate with a degree in art history and a graduate with a degree in economics will likely choose very different career paths. A few options are:

  • Embassy and consulate worker
  • Non-profit organizer
  • Historian

Many graduates with a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies elect to further their education in graduate school. However, there are positions available for bachelor's degree holders in a variety of careers, such as:

  • International aid worker
  • Researcher
  • Translator

Employment Outlook

Graduates with a master's degree in Latin American studies often pursue careers in postsecondary academia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is anticipated that jobs for postsecondary professors will grow by 13% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS lists the median annual salary of postsecondary history professors as $69,400.

Continuing Education

Students wishing to continue their education after a master's degree in Latin American studies may enter a doctoral degree program and choose an historical area of focus. Individuals in doctoral programs in Latin American studies research and write a dissertation. Another option for students wishing to continue their studies is to enter a postgraduate certificate program.

Students with an interest in Latin American history have a wide range of educational options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Graduates from such programs often choose careers in academia, particularly as history professors.

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