While Latin American studies masters programs exist at many universities in the United States, purely online programs are rare. Students interested in this field may want to consider a face-to-face program. However, if work or other restrictions prevent that, there are some options available in the form of individualized online masters programs. This article will consider the coursework common to Latin American studies graduate programs and present a number of options that may fit the needs of a student seeking an online program.
General Graduate Degree Program Information
Most masters programs last one to two years. In Latin American studies, programs will often expect students to demonstrate proficiency in Spanish and/or Portuguese, either prior to admission or in the form of a reading exam before a degree is awarded. The following sampling shows the types of courses you could expect in these masters programs.
Students in a Latin American studies course should expect a wide variety of Spanish language coursework, from basic language instruction (for students not already fluent), to composition, to high level academic classes conducted entirely in the language. Some programs may include teacher training for those who intend to become Spanish language educators.
Latin American Art and Literature
These classes are intended to expose students to the creative output of Latin America. There is an enormous variety of options in this category, from fiction and poetry to television. Such courses may focus on an individual medium (such as cinema), literary movement, author, or even the popular culture of an entire country.
Latin American History
Here you will learn about and analyze the history of Latin America, its countries and people. Depending on the course, these classes may survey a broad spectrum of history, from prehistory to today, or they may focus on a narrower historical period or geographic region. You may read a large number of historical sources, primary and secondary, in Spanish, Portuguese, or English.
These courses are meant to introduce graduate students to methods of academic research in the field of Latin American studies. You will learn how to integrate different forms of research, such as focus groups, personal interviews, and on-site investigations. Some previous coursework in research-related subjects, such as statistics, may be beneficial for students.
Portuguese and Other Languages
Spanish is obviously not the only language spoken in Latin America, and therefore most programs will offer language and linguistics courses in addition to Spanish. Portuguese is the most common (in fact, some Latin American Studies programs require a proficiency in Portuguese to graduate), but you may find others depending on faculty specialty. Some options may include Quechua, Nahuatl, or Haitian Creole.
Though online Latin American studies graduate programs are sparse, a number of online options exist for tailoring one's own masters degree through individualized coursework. Sometimes called General Studies, Liberal Arts, or Individual Studies, these programs require a large degree of self-direction from students in the selection of relevant coursework. You will usually be required to complete a number of credit hours in survey courses, with the rest of your credits available to design your coursework as you see fit. Usually you will let the university know of your proposed course of study during the application process (in your personal statement and/or biography), and once accepted, your finalized coursework proposal will need to be accepted by your academic advisor.
Admission to these programs tends to be similar to admission to on-campus masters programs, although the GRE is not commonly required. You will need to have a bachelors degree (completed or anticipated) and provide transcripts of all your previous coursework. A personal statement, resume, and/or personal biography are all commonly required, as you will use them to detail your academic and professional background, proposed course of study, and reasons for pursuing this kind of degree. Finally, some programs may ask you to supply two or three letters of recommendation from people who know you and can speak to your potential for graduate level work.
Latin American studies masters programs are very common in the United States, but online programs are rare. However, individualized and self-directed online masters programs do exist, and since Latin American studies is a commonly studied field in American academia, it is likely that students will be able to locate coursework and professors to address their individual interests.