Sankskrit and Indian Literature and Languages

A major in Sanskrit and Indian literature and languages explores the culture, history and language of South Asian civilizations. Read on to learn more about the course topics and career options associated with this unique field of study.

Are Sanskrit and Indian Literature and Languages For Me?

Overview of the Field

In studying Sanskrit, you'll be learning a language that has been in use for over four thousand years for religious and scholarly texts. One of many Indo-European languages, Sanskrit is related to Greek and Latin and serves as the foundation of hundreds of regional languages. Mastering its complex grammatical system can open the body to a vast body of literature, including texts related to art history, philosophy, religion and other works of social and moral thought. A study of Sanskrit can also provide a framework for understanding the cultures and peoples of India.

Undergraduate programs typically include at least three years of Sanskrit. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, you'll also read classical literature, poetry and philosophy, including the Bhagavad-Gita and Upanishads. Graduate-level work requires fluency in Sanskrit along with research and teaching skills.

Career Options

As a qualified graduate of a Sanskrit and Indian literature and languages program, you may be employed as an interpreter or translator. Translation is especially relevant to Sanskrit, as it is no longer a spoken language. Postsecondary teaching opportunities might also be available, once you've completed a master's or doctoral program. You may also consider a double major in anthropology or archaeology, which might qualify you for a position in either one of the fields.

Employment and Salary Information

Nationwide, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 19% increase in postsecondary teaching jobs between 2012 and 2022. Individuals who were employed as foreign language and literature professors in May 2013 earned a median annual salary of $58,620. Employment opportunities for interpreters and translators, including those who work on a freelance basis, are projected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022. According to the BLS, interpreters and translators earned a median annual salary of $42,420 in May 2013 (

How Can I Work In Sanskrit and Indian Literature and Languages?

Undergraduate Programs

An undergraduate program in Sanskrit and Indian literature and languages may prepare you to work within a religious tradition, such as Buddhism, since many Buddhist texts were written either in Sanskrit or in Pali, a descendant language of Sanskrit. Through courses in Sanskrit that focus on grammar and vocabulary, you'll achieve the level of fluency you need for an entry-level translator job. Additional studies in anthropology or archaeology can include topics in ancient civilizations, human origins, museum theory and cultural geography. They can also help you prepare for a position in a social or cultural service agency, or for a master's degree in museum studies.

Graduate Programs

Master's degree programs in Sanskrit literature and languages typically take 2-3 years to complete and usually culminate in a thesis, professional paper or project. At this level, you may have the opportunity to study literary or religious texts written in Sanskrit. A doctoral degree in the same field of study can open the door to a tenure-track position if you are seeking to be a professor. To be admitted, you'll need to be fluent in Sanskrit and prepared to commit to 4-7 years of study. Graduation requirements include researching, writing and defending an original dissertation on an area of special language or literary interest.

Required Skills

As a postsecondary teacher, you'll need to be organized and have good communication and interpersonal skills. If you pursue a career in interpretation and translation, you'll need to be detail oriented and have a broad background in literary styles, grammar, syntax and vocabulary.

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