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 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.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


  Honors Courses
  Four-Year Graduation Plan
Admission Process

Careers and Outcomes

Iowa graduates have a 95 percent job/grad school placement rate within six months of graduation. Our  Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs. 

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500  student organizations, Iowa students choose from more than 100  study abroad  programs and multiple  undergraduate research opportunities.

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.


The University of Iowa provides a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students through the Iowa Scholarship Portal. Scholarships are available to first-year, transfer, and currently enrolled students. For additional details on scholarships for your program of study, check directly with the department or college. 

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


The BA 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.

Students also must complete the requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences GE CLAS Core

To learn about required course work for the major or minor and graduating with honors, see 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.