Near Eastern Languages and Cultures B.A.

In the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC) you work with faculty who have expertise in the history, languages and cultures of the Near East. Stretching from Libya to Turkey and southward down the Arabian Peninsula, the Near East encompasses: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen.

Students choosing this major study of one or more Near Eastern language (Arabic, Egyptian, Hebrew, or Persian) while completing additional coursework in a chosen area of focus. The degree provides a solid grounding in this area of focus and an in-depth look at the ways in which modern scholars understand the continued international significance of the languages and cultures of the Near East. The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is part of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures also offers undergraduate minors.


Getting started

Your starting point in the major is language study and one of the 100 or 200 level non-language courses, based on your interests and potential area of focus. Languages that count toward the major are Arabic, Acient Egyptian, Hebrew, and Persian.

If you are new to your chosen Near Eastern language, start with a 100-level introductory course in the fall semester. If you have prior Near Eastern language experience, through formal or informal study or family heritage, contact the Director of Language Instruction to schedule a placement exam to determine which course level is the best fit for your current skills.

Students studying Arabic as part of completing the NELC Language track must complete their fourth semester of language study with a B+ or better to move on to the fifth and sixth semesters.

The department also offers some language classes during the summer through the IU Language Workshop, allowing you to focus and accelerate your language study.

Tracks and concentrations

Two tracks are available in the major: the Culture track and the Language track.

  • The Culture track requires study in Arabic, Ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, or Persian, through the intermediate level (4th semester level). You select additional courses in an area of focus, working with the NELC academic advisor to explore topics specific to your interests. This track provides more flexibility if you are interested in studying multiple areas or languages.
  • The Language track requires study in Arabic, Ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, or Persian, through the advanced level (6th semester level). You choose additional courses in an area of focus. This track gives you more developed language skills and is recommended for those who wish to pursue graduate studies or careers in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. This track is also recommended to students participating in the Arabic Flagship Program.

Upper level coursework

The Near Eastern Languages and Cultures major allows you to personalize the curriculum with your language of specialization and related courses. Entry level courses will introduce you to your chosen Near Eastern language and provide a broad view of the various cultures that make up the region.

As you identify an area of focus and continue with upper level coursework, you will further develop language competency and begin more in-depth study of a particular theme, topic, or Near Eastern culture.

The academic advisor will help you select the best courses to suit your interests.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Students frequently combine their Near Eastern Languages and Cultures coursework with other majors, minors, and certificates offered by the College of Arts and Sciences or other schools at IU Bloomington. Recently, the most commonly paired majors have been: International Studies, Political Science, Economics, History, and Jewish Studies.

The most common minors are: International Studies, Political Science, Central Eurasian Studies, Nonprofit Management, and African Languages.

Students in both NELC tracks have also pursued certificates in the Islamic Studies ProgramLiberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP), or Public and Civic Engagement (PACE).

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a major in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

As your interests develop, you might want to take an independent readings course under the guidance of faculty. Talk with the academic advisor or your instructors about this possibility.

IU Bloomington also has a number of related programs, Area Studies Centers, and organizations that may be of interest, including:


NELC offers two ways to earn departmental honors: a research track and an advanced Arabic track.

The research honors track is available to outstanding students with a high degree of language proficiency (through at least the sixth semester), and preferably eight semesters of Arabic language study (through NELC-A 450). Honors students in the research track work with a faculty mentor to complete an Honors Readings course and an honors thesis of 25+ pages.

Completing an honors thesis is a particularly good exercise if you are considering graduate school. Interested students are encouraged develop and refine their research interests early in their study, selecting courses that will provide a strong foundation.

The Arabic honors track is open to high achieving students taking NELC-A 400 and NELC-A 450. Among other requirements, this track requires writing two lengthy research paper (7,000 words each), composed in Arabic, while enrolled in NELC-A 400 and NELC-A 450.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Funding opportunities specifically relevant to Near Eastern Languages and Cultures students include:

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures awards the A. Haddawi Scholarship annually to a major or minor student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, an interest in the study of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and financial need. Each spring, the NELC Lectures and Awards Committee selects the winner of this scholarship from a list of faculty-nominated students.

Additionally, IU Bloomington offers a variety of funding opportunities:


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Students pursuing the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures major have held internships with these and other organizations:

Learn more about internships through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships, including how to earn internship credit

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.

Here is partial list of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

You may wish to immerse yourself in the cultures and languages of the Near East through overseas study. Consult with the academic advisor about the timing and requirements of this. Near Eastern Languages and Culture students have studied in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Turkey, as well as locations around the world.

Relevant Indiana University programs include:

  • American University in New Cairo, Egypt
  • Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel
  • Morocco-SIT Program in Rabat, Morocco

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with NELC faculty, your academic advisor and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Several student associations are relevant to students pursuing the NELC major:

Sigma Iota Rho is an honor society for students in the School of Global and International Studies. Members are eligible for scholarships and research grants, and have the opportunity to publish work and serve on the Editorial Board for the Journal of International Relations.

The Office of International Services hosts ongoing programs, including conversation clubs where you can meet people and practice language. They also maintain a list of student organizations that focus on international cultures.

The Global Living-Learning Community is one of several Living Learning Centers on campus. It integrates formal and informal residential learning for motivated undergraduates with international interests, regardless of academic discipline or major.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement on campus and beyond. The following organizations can help connect you with community members and international visitors in the university community and beyond:

Professional organizations

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

The following are just a few of the professional organizations with interests in the Near East:

Build your skills

Through the major

The Near Eastern Languages and Cultures major provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Regional expertise: understand and analyze the causes and consequences of major events and trends in the countries of the Near East
  • Language competence: communicate both socially and professionally in at least in one Near Eastern language
  • Global context: situate Near Eastern countries both geographically and historically in relation to other world regions
  • Critical thinking and source analysis: utilize both primary and secondary sources, evaluating cultural artifacts and texts in their historical context
  • Independent research: develop evidence-based arguments, defend your own position, and make informed oral and written presentations
  • Communication and leadership: inform and interact, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Together with your other major, your college degree provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
  • Proficiency with computer software programs
  • Create and edit written reports
  • Ability to persuade or influence others

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at IU Bloomington.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach

The Walter Center for Career Achievement also offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests.These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities andresources, and in-person events.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. Hamilton Lugar School students should consider taking ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. This course provides the opportunity for Near Eastern Languages & Cultures students to explore the relationship between their chosen field of study and life after graduation while developing a career and academic development plan for post-collegiate success.

The job market

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, students with language skills and cultural literacy regarding the countries of the Near East can expect a positive employment outlook. Talk with NELC faculty, the academic advisor, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Hamilton Lugar School.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: federal and state government, military or civil service, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, the cooperative job sector, education, research and policy think tanks, banking and business.

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures majors become researchers, information analysts, linguists, policy advisors, educators, translators, tourism advisors, businesspersons, security personnel, journalists, or aid workers, among many other options.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers.

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as these:

Using these and other resources, your career coach can help you craft a unique post-graduate short-term experience, whether in the United States or abroad.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who have pursued graduate studies in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, the United Nations, World Bank, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, political groups, business and entrepreneurship, media, and the military and intelligence communities.

Students with the undergraduate degree have entered graduate programs many fields at Indiana University and other institutions:

African Studies, Anthropology, Business, Central Eurasian Studies, Comparative Literature, Economics, Education, History, Jewish Studies, Law, Linguistics, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Political Science, Public Affairs*, Public Health, Public Policy, Religious Studies, Sociology

*includes the option of a dual masters with Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at IU Bloomington

Alumni connections

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, follow careers, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:

  • Interest in the countries and cultures of the Middle East
  • Wish to study one or more language of the region
  • Fascination with the ancient history of the region
  • Awareness of the significance of the region in contemporary geopolitics
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination
  • Desire to gain expertise working with others who study the region

Learn more

Contact the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address