Southeast Asian Culture

Read about Southeast Asian studies programs, including degree options, areas of specialization and course topics. Find out what types of careers are available to graduates, as well as how much you can earn as a Southeast Asian specialist working in the fields of academia or business.

Is Southeast Asian Studies for Me?

Overview of the Field

Southeast Asia is composed of ten different countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Malaysia and East Timor. Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) are also part of this geographical region. If you want to read the newspaper, talk politics or do business in one of these emerging countries, you may consider a certificate or degree program in Southeast Asian cultural studies. In addition to learning about the region's civilizations and languages, the curriculum may include topics in religion, literature and history. You may also study art history, music, theater and philosophy, in addition to sociology and economics. A degree in Southeast Asian cultural studies can prepare you for a career in international affairs, government, business, education or journalism.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management analysts can be employed as consultants in a variety of fields and industries, and many are able to find work overseas. In May 2013, management analysts earned a mean annual wage of $89,990. Employment of reporters, who earned an average salary of $44,360 in 2013, is expected to decrease by 13% from 2012-2022. However, you may be able to use your knowledge of Southeast Asian cultures and languages to carve out a professional niche and improve your prospects.

By comparison, the BLS projected a 19% increase in jobs for postsecondary teachers from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, college professors who taught political science earned a mean annual wage of $84,110, while those teaching area, ethnic and cultural studies earned $77,550 (

How Can I Work in Southeast Asian Studies?

Educational Options

Southeast Asian cultural studies programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and can include a certificate, minor or concentration within a larger Asian studies program. Study-abroad programs are encouraged to strengthen your cultural understanding and language skills.

Undergraduate Programs

A Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies program with a concentration in Southeast Asian culture typically includes four semesters of regional language instruction, in addition to courses in the humanities and social sciences. Language options include Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Burmese. You may also earn a certificate in Southeast Asian studies to complement a degree in another field, such as business. In general, certificate programs include a core of cultural and area studies, as well as instruction in one of the regional languages.

Graduate Programs

Master's and doctoral degrees usually require fluency in a regional language and allow for a concentration in your area of special interest, such as ethno-musicology or political science. Additional areas of specialization might include postcolonial theory, archaeology and the environment. Completion of a Master of Arts in Southeast Asian Studies may help you prepare for a career in business or journalism, or for a position with an international organization. To work in academia or research, you'll most likely need a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Southeast Asian Studies.

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