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Guide to studying Iberian Languages: Spanish and Portuguese

Find out what it’s like to study Spanish, Portuguese and other Iberian Languages at university.

Discover undergraduate Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London – ranked 3rd in London for Linguistics (Complete University Guide Subject League Table 2021).


  1. What's Iberian Languages?

  2. Why study Iberian Languages?

  3. What jobs can you get as an Iberian Languages graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's Iberian Languages?

Iberian Languages is the study of the languages and cultures of the Iberian peninsula. The most common languages spoken there are Spanish and Portuguese. Both are widely spoken across the world and are official languages of the UN.

Many UK universities offer degrees in Spanish; some offer Portuguese courses or in related subjects such as Hispanic Studies or Catalan.

Similar courses for Iberian Languages include: 

  • Spanish Studies
  • Portuguese Studies

Why study Iberian Languages at university?

As well as understanding the languages, you’ll learn about the countries’ rich histories and futures in cultural, political and linguistic terms.

Departments across the UK offer modules in areas such as literature, cinema, visual culture, translation and linguistics. You’ll learn to express yourself in written and oral forms, gaining a firm understanding of how the language works, its idioms and variety. 

An Iberian Languages degree can be combined as a joint-honours with a different subject area, giving you the chance to explore your wider interests. Universities allow for a fair bit of flexibility, but common combinations include with English Literature, History or another language.

You’ll spend your third year living and either working or studying in a country speaking the language. This lets you experience the language and culture first-hand while improving your communication skills.

You may not want a career closely related to Iberian Languages after university. But the subject area will set you up with skills that can be used in different sectors or professions; skills such as analysing, interpreting and communicating. Having another language under your belt is extremely attractive to many employers!

Typical spanish tapas

What jobs can you get as an Iberian Languages graduate?

There are many things you can do with a degree in Spanish or Portuguese; modern languages graduates have a wide range of rewarding careers to choose from. This includes in translating, interpreting, teaching, tourism, charity, publishing, business, banking and law.

Spanish and Hispanic Studies, in particular, open up job opportunities with many organisations that work in Latin America and the USA.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Iberian Languages have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Iberian Languages students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

You’ll usually need three A Levels (or equivalent), with one in a modern language. Other useful subjects to have include a second modern language, History, English Language or Literature, and Politics.

University admissions staff look for students who can demonstrate a strong interest in the chosen language and culture. You can show this in your application through any relevant work or travel experiences (such as exchange programmes) in a country that speaks the language.

Always check the specific entry requirements for the university and course you're interested in.

What degrees can you study?

  • BA in Spanish/Portuguese
  • BA in Hispanic Studies
  • BA in Modern Languages and Cultures
  • BA in European Languages and History (specialising in Spanish/Portuguese as a single language)
  • BA in Combined Honours

How will you be assessed?

Teaching is typically through lectures, seminars and workshops. You’ll spend a number of hours each week in language classes as well as classes for your chosen modules.

Assessment for Iberian Languages usually consists of coursework essays and timed exams in writing, speaking and listening. Most degree courses include a final dissertation project.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

There are many taught master’s and research degrees at postgraduate level for graduates of Iberian Languages. Examples include an MA in Spanish and Portuguese or a PhD in Translation Studies.

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