First of all, you should be aware that there is a difference between Latin American Studies (LAS) and Latino Studies. The former focuses on the history and cultures of countries that are part of Latin America while the latter focuses on the culture, social fabric, and history of the U.S. Latino populations. LAS is a complement for Latino Studies but not the other way around.
How Latino Studies is Different from LAS
A student of Latino Studies will be taught to take on a perspective of the various Latino communities in the U.S. and the curriculum has core courses on Latino experience in the American context, political and socioeconomic issues relevant to Latinos in the U.S., and Latino music, art, and literature. Some students pursue advanced Latino Studies while other go into various fields that require expertise associated with Latino Studies.
Given the proximity between the countries of ancestry or origin of the U.S. population of Latinos, LAS usually requires students with concentration on Latino Studies to take several courses of LAS as well. Latino Studies incorporates historical trends of the explosive Latino population growth over the past three decades and the influences that the Latinos have contributed to the social structure, politics, and economics of the U.S.
What You Can Do With a Latino Studies Degree
The specialized information and knowledge that a Latino Studies student acquires can prove to be invaluable when it comes to job opportunities. Consider that more than 400 million of the world’s population speak Spanish and you have a pretty good idea of the range of jobs you can choose from. Straight off the bat, you can be a translator or an interpreter for just about anything, from advertising brochures to night courts.
You can enter the foreign service industry, represent a company engaged in import and export, write for a Spanish publication or be on a Spanish TV channel as a scriptwriter, producer or even actor, provide public relations services to non-English speaking Latinos, teach or tutor Spanish, provide document translation services or work with international organizations overseas.
You can liaise for your American employer with a Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Spanish or South American supplier or client, work as a tour operator for Latinos visiting the U.S., open your own Latino restaurant or bar, engage in social work with Latino groups, become a curator in a museum, run a nonprofit for Latino communities as administrator or manager or go into law enforcement as part of a Latino taskforce.
A Latino Studies degree program creates a bridge across several disciplines to change and shape the U.S. cultural landscape by helping its graduates develop a multidisciplinary skill that can be utilized optimally for a job market that has been continuously evolving regardless of career choices. Employers are already in recognition of the value of Latino Studies as a degree in social services and healthcare.
Where You Can Obtain a Latino Studies Degree
Columbia University offers a bachelor’s degree in Latino Studies as do Indiana University-Bloomington, Cornell University, the University of California-Santa Cruz, Hunter College, University Iowa State University, Whittier College, the University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University, the University of California-Irvine, Fresno City College, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.