Chances are that when you start talking with native Spanish speakers, one of the first things you'll talk about is your jobs or occupations-or what you hope to do someday. Here's a guide to talking about occupations in Spanish along with a list of the most common types of jobs.
List of Occupational Names
Many of the job titles below seem familiar, as many are English cognates, having come from Latin. Keep in mind, though, that in a few cases the meanings in similar-sounding titles don't always line up exactly, sometimes because of cultural differences. A secondary-school teacher in Latin America, for example, might be known as a profesor, while in the United States, at least, the word "professor" is used primarily at the university level.
In this list, the masculine forms are given. The feminine forms are given following a slash (/) in cases where they don't follow the rules above.
Note also that different words may be used in some areas, or for certain specialties.
Businessman/businesswoman-hombre/mujer de negocios, empresario
Chemist (pharmacist)- armacéutico
Chief executive officer-director general
Clerk (office worker)-oficinista
Clerk (retail worker)-dependiente
Model-modelo (no separate feminine form)
Pilot-piloto (separate feminine form rarely used)
Social worker-asistente social
Grammar of Occupations
One matter of some confusion can be the gender of the occupational names. In many cases, the same word is used to refer to a man as to a woman. For example, a male dentist is el dentista, while a female dentist is la dentista. In some cases, there are distinct forms, such as el carpintero for a male carpenter and la carpintera for a female carpenter. In many cases, both forms can be used to refer to a female. For example, the boss is el jefe if he's male, but either la jefe or la jefa if she's female, depending on the region and, sometimes, who's speaking. Similarly, la médica is used to refer to a female doctor in some areas, but in other areas la médico is used and/or might be considered more respectful. In nearly all cases, using la with the masculine form is the safer choice if you're not sure of local usage.
Otherwise, the feminine form of the occupations ending in -o are formed by changing the -o to an -a. Occupations that end in -dor are changed to -dora for the feminine. Occupation names that already end in -a are the same in masculine or feminine.
Use of the Indefinite Article
Unlike English, Spanish does not use the indefinite article-"a" or "an" in English, and un or una in Spanish-when specifying someone's occupation:
- No soy marinero; soy capitán. (I am not a sailor; I am a captain.)
- Mi madre es profesor de ciencia. (My mother is a science teacher.)
- Felipe Calderón era presidente de México. (Felipe Calderón was president of Mexico.)
- Se hizo actriz extraodrinaria. (She became an extraordinary actress.)
However, the article can be used in other situations, such as when talking about an occupation in general:
- Un actor es una persona que interpreta un papel. (An actor is a person who plays a role.)
- El juez condenó a un dentista por hacer extracciones innecesarias. (The judge sentenced a dentist for performing unnecessary extractions.)
- ¿De dónde saca la inspiración un escritor? (Where does a writer get inspiration from?)
Some occupation names can be used in ways characterize actions rather than referring to occupation, in which case the article can be used.
- Todos sabían que el despota era un carcinero psicopático. (Everyone knew the dictator was a psychopathic butcher).
- Mi moto es un psicológico, y la velocidad mi terapia. (My motorcycle is a psychologist, and speed my therapy.)
- Many occupations names in Spanish are similar to those of English because they both come from Latin.
- The indefinite article (un or una) is not typically used when referring to someone's occupation.
- Separate feminine and masculine forms exist for the names of some occupations, although their use varies across regions.