South Asian Culture

Numerous countries make up South Asia, which is the focus of undergraduate and graduate programs that study the languages, literature and history of the region. Read on to find out more about South Asian studies, career and employment information and degree programs.

Is the Study of South Asian Culture for Me?

Career Overview

South Asia is composed of India, Pakistan and other surrounding countries. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs exist with a South Asian culture concentration and are sometimes found under the name Asian studies. As a student of such a program, you would examine the culture and language of the civilizations from the area, including their cuisine, literature, theatre, art, philosophy, music and religions. Other areas of study are politics, sociology and economics. You may also develop oral and written communication skills through intensive training in a South Asian language. Studying abroad is encouraged.

Advanced degrees in South Asian culture are research-intensive and may require that you be fluent in a regional language. Many programs also require you to teach classes in preparation for an academic career. Other career opportunities are also found with government and nonprofit organizations, through international corporations or as an interpreter or translator.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 25% of interpreters and translators were employed by educational services, while 13% worked in the healthcare and social assistance industries in 2012 ( The best job prospects can be found in urban areas such as New York or Washington, D.C. Employment is projected to increase by 46% between 2012-2022, which is significantly faster than the national average. In May 2013, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $42,420, as reported by the BLS.

In order to work as a postsecondary teacher at a college or university, you will need to possess an advanced degree in South Asian studies. According to the BLS, employment of professors who taught area, ethnic and cultural studies programs was projected to grow by 16% between 2012-2022. In May 2013, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for area, ethnic and cultural studies professors was $66,770.

How Can I Work in South Asian Culture?

Undergraduate Education

As a major in South Asian cultural studies, you can expect an interdisciplinary curriculum with courses in anthropology, art history, cinema and political science, in addition to intensive language study and literature analysis. Languages that you can study include Sanskrit, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, Indonesian, Urdu, Bengali and Hindi, to name a few.

Master's Programs

For a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree program in South Asian studies, you can expect to study the literature, linguistics and contemporary issues of this region in depth. In order to earn this degree you will be required to pass multiple comprehensive examinations; some programs may also offer you the option to submit independent research through a thesis.

Doctoral Programs

A doctoral degree (Ph.D.) program would typically require you to demonstrate fluency in at least one South Asian language and become proficient in another during your course of study. In addition, you could potentially explore fields such as comparative literature and religious studies through your Ph.D. program. In order to earn this terminal degree, you will need to pass an oral examination in multiple fields of study. Furthermore, you will need to submit and defend successfully an original dissertation.

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