More than 230 million people speak Portuguese, making it the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. It is the third most spoken language in the Western Hemisphere (after English and Spanish) and the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. An estimated 1.3 million Portuguese-speakers live in the United States, and Brazil—where Portuguese is the official language—has the fifth largest economy in the world.

As a result, a major in Portuguese can help students find careers in many settings, such as international business, government, travel, or communications—fields in which knowledge of a world language and of world cultures may be essential.

Why Study at Iowa

Studying Portuguese at Iowa helps students develop their Portuguese language skills while studying the literature and culture of Portugal, Brazil, and other Portuguese-speaking countries (including Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tome and Principe, and East Timor).

Students majoring in Portuguese may go on to graduate study in areas such as Luso-Brazilian literature, comparative literature, Latin American studies, or linguistics. A Portuguese major is a good complement to a major in another world language or to certificate programs such as the Certificate in International Business or the Certificate in Latin American Studies.

Course Work

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program in Portuguese is structured to link five performance goals—listening, reading, speaking, writing, and cultural knowledge—in a staged progression designed to help you develop oral proficiency. Course work emphasizes speaking and comprehending basic Brazilian Portuguese. It also incorporates cultural materials, mainly films and music.

Portuguese is geared toward students without previous world language study or experience. Classes usually are small and provide individual attention in an informal learning environment.

All major-level courses require completion of the equivalent of second-year college-level study of Portuguese (Accelerated Intermediate Portuguese), or the equivalent of four semesters of Portuguese. Once the student begins the major, he/she will study speaking, composition and conversation, and courses in literature and cultural studies.

See Spanish & Portuguese in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the major and graduating with honors.

Minor in Portuguese

See Spanish & Portuguese in the UI General Catalog.

Courses for Nonmajors

Students in other majors may fulfill the world language component of their college's General Education Program with approved sequences in Portuguese language courses. Additional Portuguese courses may satisfy other General Education requirements.

Admission Requirements

Portuguese majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 600 student organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple living-learning communities, study abroad programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Portuguese students have numerous opportunities to learn outside the classroom, such as living in the Global Mosaic Living-Learning Community in the residence halls or participating in a study abroad program in Brazil.

The department’s weekly conversation groups in Portuguese are friendly, informal gatherings where students may practice with native speakers, meet professors and graduate students, and enjoy each other’s company.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The Language Media Center in the Division of World Languages and Literatures offers students and faculty members a broad range of services and facilities that include a state-of-the-art audio language laboratory, individual audio-recording carrels, video-viewing rooms and stations for small groups and individuals, and networked microcomputer and interactive multimedia workstations. The center also maintains a number of instructional technology classrooms with special video, audio, and computer equipment for in-class presentations. Its extensive collection of international media resources serves learners at many levels and in many disciplines.

The Spanish and Portuguese department’s faculty includes many native speakers. Faculty members have attracted wide support for their research, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Program, and the University’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.
The department also plays an important role in the Latin American Studies Program, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program focusing on the history, politics, social organization, economy, art, music, religion, and literature of Latin America.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Portuguese (BA)
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan