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In many universities in the US, students choose a primary specialty to study (called their "major") and optionally a secondary emphasis (called a "minor"). How would these terms be expressed in Spanish when referring to a US education? And do universities in Spanish-speaking countries have the same major/minor structure?

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I don't think this is really about Spanish language, but university system in different countries. For example, Spain is in the European Higher Education Area, it's divided in Bachelor degree and Master Degree. In Latin America countrie implements its own higher education system and may vary. So I think you should consider looking up higher education in Spanish-speaking countries elsewhere (wikipedia does a pretty good job) rather than asking an specific translation from the US education. (Why not Canadian or Australian?) –  JoulSauron May 7 '12 at 20:16
    
@JoulSauron: The main reason I ask is because I have a degree from a US university, and I've had trouble explaining what I studied when traveling in Spanish-speaking countries. –  jrdioko May 7 '12 at 20:23
    
What I usually do is to explain how is the education system in Spain. I have to do this to Europeans and Latin Americans, even from Spanish-speaking countries. It's not really about how do you say major/minor, but what you studied then. For example, in my CVs to Germany I don't write the translation in German, but say how many years/courses it took my degree for a better understanding, and it's more appreciated. To me, for example, major/minor from US is irrelevant, I needed what you said primary speciality and secondary emphasis. –  JoulSauron May 7 '12 at 20:32
    
@JoulSauron: I see. How would "primary specialty" and "secondary emphasis" be best expressed in Spanish then? –  jrdioko May 7 '12 at 20:35
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Sorry for my long comments, just to make it clear. Previous to the EHEA, Spanish engineers where often considered as low educated in UK, because in UK most people are engineers + master. However, the fact was that in Spain, the engineers studied the equivalent to British engineering+master, and oftenly they were even more prepared than British, but this was not usually known by British HR in companies. –  JoulSauron May 7 '12 at 20:36

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I asked this same question of my Spanish teacher who spent significant amounts of time in Spain (was married to a Spaniard and spent summers there.) His suggestion was to refer to the major as "especialización" and minor as "subespecialización". These are the best descriptions I've heard for describing the US system of study in Spanish terms.

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Although we never use those terms, I think we can understand what you would mean if you say that. –  JoulSauron May 9 '12 at 7:19

In Colombia (and in most Latin American counties) there is no such structures in undergraduate education. Therefore, "major" and "minor" words are used only to speak about US educational system.

Instead, in most latin american countries we have a system that differentiates between "professional" and "technician" education (educacón profesional y educación técnica o tecnológica). A professional degree is better that a technician degree. The former is taught at Universities and have a duration of 4 to 5 years. The later is taught at "Institutos Técnicos" and usually have a duration of 2 to 3 years.

There is some similarities between major and professional degrees, and between minor and technician degrees, but our education systems are different from yours in many details.

If you are talking about education you must be careful to refer to a specific country (for example: Perú, Mexico or Brasil), and make a research about the specific names that are used there to refer to their specific structures in education. A Wikipedia search is often enough.

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Thanks, and welcome to the site! –  jrdioko May 7 '12 at 17:27
    
The U.S. has technical colleges, too, which I believe correspond pretty closely to the Latin American Institutos Técnicos, and they generally don't offer degrees, per se, but often certifications, or other un-accredited diplomas. –  Flimzy May 10 '12 at 23:04

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