professions

Professions and Occupations in Spanish and How to Name Them

One of the first questions people ask when they meet someone is: “what do you do?”

Talking about one’s profession or occupation is an easy conversation starter in Spanish, and even an A1 student can describe without much difficulty what they do for a living. 

What are some common professions and occupations in Spanish? Let’s see a few of them:

15 Common Professions and Occupations in Spanish

  • 🇪🇸 ingeniero – 🇬🇧 an engineer
  • 🇪🇸 arquitecto – 🇬🇧 an architect
  • 🇪🇸 médico – 🇬🇧 a doctor
  • 🇪🇸 profesor / maestro – 🇬🇧 a teacher 
  • 🇪🇸 abogado – 🇬🇧 a lawyer
  • 🇪🇸 dentista – 🇬🇧 a dentist
  • 🇪🇸 enfermera – 🇬🇧 a nurse
  • 🇪🇸 mecánico – 🇬🇧 a mechanic
  • 🇪🇸 periodista – 🇬🇧 a journalist
  • 🇪🇸 policía / carabinero – 🇬🇧 a police officer
  • 🇪🇸 informático – 🇬🇧 an IT engineer
  • 🇪🇸 programador – 🇬🇧 a programmer
  • 🇪🇸 diseñador – 🇬🇧 a designer
  • 🇪🇸 veterinario – 🇬🇧 a veterinarian
  • 🇪🇸 contador – 🇬🇧 an accountant

As you can see, many of these Spanish words are very similar to English. The abundance of the so-called “cognates” is one reason why Spanish is not a difficult language to learn for native English speakers

How to Talk about Professions in Spanish – Typical Questions and Sample Answers

Knowing the names of different professions and occupations in Spanish is just the beginning.

If you want to establish a conversation about this topic, you’ll also have to be able to ask and answer simple questions related to what you or other people do for a living. 

Have a look at the mini-dialogues below. I am sure you’ll find a lot of useful information there.

🇪🇸
A: ¿Cuál es tu profesión?
B: Soy abogado.
🇬🇧
A: What’s your profession?
B: I’m a lawyer.

🇪🇸
A: ¿A qué te dedicas?
B: Soy médico. 
🇬🇧
A: What do you do?
B: I’m a lawyer.

🇪🇸
A: ¿Trabajas o estudias?
B: Trabajo. Soy contador.
🇬🇧
A: Do you work or study?
B: I work. I’m an accountant.

🇪🇸
A: ¿Qué hace tu esposa?
B: Es diseñadora de vestuario. Tiene su propia tienda.
🇬🇧
A: What does your wife do?
B: She is a fashion designer. She has her own store.

Let’s analyze these four conversations in more detail, shall we? 

Please pay attention to the following details:

  1. Unlike English, professions and occupations in Spanish don’t require the use of an article. 

✔️Soy arquitecto.
❌Soy un arquitecto. 

  1. Considering that Spanish verbs change their form for every personal pronoun, it is unnecessary to use that pronoun in a sentence unless it is needed to clarify the subject.

✔️Soy periodista.
❌Yo soy periodista. 

  1. Literal translation doesn’t always make sense. As you can see above, the Spanish equivalent of “what do you do?” is “a qué te dedicas”. 

If you ask “Qué haces?” people will most likely understand it as “what are you doing?”. 

🇪🇸
A: ¿Qué haces?
B: Estoy viendo tele. 
🇬🇧
A: What are you doing?
B: I am watching TV.

Professions and Occupations in Spanish – Gender Rules

Even if you have been studying Spanish only for a few weeks, you’ve surely realized that both nouns and adjectives in this language have genders: they might be masculine or feminine. 

Forgetting to adjust the form of a word to the right gender is one of the most common mistakes people make when they learn Spanish

What happens with professions in Spanish if you want to associate them with a woman? 

There are three different possibilities:

Same form for masculine and feminine

This, of course, is the most comfortable situation: the name of the profession doesn’t change, no matter if its holder is a man or a woman. 

Check out the example below:

🇪🇸 Él es periodista.
🇬🇧 He is a journalist.

🇪🇸 Ella es periodista.
🇬🇧 She is a journalist. 

What are the professions and occupations in Spanish that follow that rule? Most of them end with “-a,” “-ar,” “-ista,” and sometimes “-e.” 

  • 🇪🇸 policía – 🇬🇧 a police officer
  • 🇪🇸 atleta – 🇬🇧 an athlete
  • 🇪🇸 guía– 🇬🇧 a guide
  • 🇪🇸 terapeuta – 🇬🇧 a therapeut
  • 🇪🇸 psiquiatra – 🇬🇧 a psychatrist
  • 🇪🇸 taxista – 🇬🇧 a taxi driver
  • 🇪🇸 electricista – 🇬🇧 an electician
  • 🇪🇸 recepcionista – 🇬🇧 a receptionist
  • 🇪🇸 agente – 🇬🇧 an agent
  • 🇪🇸 estudiante – 🇬🇧 a student
  • 🇪🇸 cantante – 🇬🇧 a singer
  • 🇪🇸 militar – 🇬🇧 a soldier
  • 🇪🇸 piloto – 🇬🇧 a pilot
  • 🇪🇸 auxiliar de vuelo – 🇬🇧 a flight attendant
  • 🇪🇸 chef – 🇬🇧 a chef
  • 🇪🇸 gerente – 🇬🇧 a manager
  • 🇪🇸 modelo – 🇬🇧 model

Change the ending

Unfortunately, many – if not most – professions do change their form depending on their gender, which means that you’ll need to learn some more rules.

masculine “O” ⟶ feminine “A.”

  • 🇪🇸 médico  ⟶ médica🇬🇧 a doctor
  • 🇪🇸 arquitecto ⟶   arquitecta – 🇬🇧 an architect
  • 🇪🇸 bombero ⟶  bombera – 🇬🇧 a firefighter
  • 🇪🇸 ginecólogo ⟶  ginecóloga – 🇬🇧 a gynecologist
  • 🇪🇸 ingeniero ⟶  ingeniera – 🇬🇧 an engineer
  • 🇪🇸 ministro ⟶ ministra – 🇬🇧 a minister
  • 🇪🇸 cartero ⟶ cartera – 🇬🇧 a postman / a postwoman
  • 🇪🇸 camarero ⟶ camarera – 🇬🇧 a waiter / waitress
  • 🇪🇸 obrero ⟶ obrera – 🇬🇧 a workman / a workwoman
  • 🇪🇸 psicólogo ⟶ psicóloga – 🇬🇧 a psychologist
  • 🇪🇸 panadero ⟶ panadera – 🇬🇧 a baker
  • 🇪🇸 peluquero ⟶ peluquera – 🇬🇧 a hairdresser

masculine “E” ⟶ feminine “A.”

  • 🇪🇸 jefe ⟶ jefa🇬🇧 boss, chief
  • 🇪🇸 sirviente ⟶   sirvienta – 🇬🇧 a servant
  • 🇪🇸 presidente ⟶  presidenta – 🇬🇧 president

masculine “OR” ⟶ feminine “ORA.”

  • 🇪🇸 escritor ⟶ escritora 🇬🇧 a writer
  • 🇪🇸 profesor⟶   profesora – 🇬🇧 a teacher
  • 🇪🇸 corredor ⟶  corredora – 🇬🇧 a realtor
  • 🇪🇸 inspector ⟶  inspectora – 🇬🇧 an inspector
  • 🇪🇸 traductor ⟶  traductora – 🇬🇧 a translator
  • 🇪🇸 embajador ⟶ embajadora – 🇬🇧 an ambassador
  • 🇪🇸 agricultor ⟶ agricultora – 🇬🇧 a farmer
  • 🇪🇸 vendedor ⟶ vendedora – 🇬🇧 a salesman / a saleswoman
  • 🇪🇸 pintor⟶   pintora – 🇬🇧 a painter

Let’s see how to show these gender differences in a context:

🇪🇸 Mi hermana mayor es policía. Es la mujer más valiente que conozco.
🇬🇧 My older sister is a police officer. She is the bravest woman I know.

🇪🇸 La profesora de historia de mi hijo es muy simpática. Pero su profesor de matemáticas les grita mucho.
🇬🇧 My son’s history teacher (woman) is very nice. But his math teacher (man) yells at them too much. 

🇪🇸 Soy ingeniera en minas. Soy la única mujer en mi equipo.
🇬🇧 I am a mining engineer. I’m the only woman on my team.

🇪🇸 Ayer conocí a una mujer taxista.
🇬🇧 Yesterday I met a female taxi driver. 

🇪🇸 La embajadora de Noruega en Argentina habla español muy bien.
🇬🇧 The ambassador of Norway in Argentina speak Spanish very well. 

🇪🇸 La corredora me avisó que hay un cliente interesado en comprar mi deparamento.
🇬🇧 The realtor notified me there is a client interested in buying my apartment. 

Spanish Professions and Occupations Useful in Everyday Life

Is your sink leaking? Do your new jeans need hemming? Or perhaps you’ve locked yourself out, your only set of keys on your night-table?

Daily problems like those require us to resort to the help of all sorts of specialists. What are they called in Spanish? Let´s have a look:

  • 🇪🇸 cerrajero – 🇬🇧 a locksmith
  • 🇪🇸 fontanero / gásfiter– 🇬🇧 a plumber
  • 🇪🇸 costurera – 🇬🇧 a tailor (female)
  • 🇪🇸 sastre– 🇬🇧 a tailor (male)
  • 🇪🇸 peluquero– 🇬🇧 a hairdresser
  • 🇪🇸 relojero – 🇬🇧 watchmaker
  • 🇪🇸 electricista – 🇬🇧 an electrician
  • 🇪🇸 zapatero – 🇬🇧 a shoemaker, a cobbler
  • 🇪🇸 jardinero – 🇬🇧 a gardener
  • 🇪🇸 vidriero – 🇬🇧 a glazier
  • 🇪🇸 mueblista– 🇬🇧 a furniture maker
  • 🇪🇸 mecánico – 🇬🇧 a mechanic
  • 🇪🇸 niñera – 🇬🇧 a babysitter

🇪🇸 ¿Conoces a algún sastre? Necesito mandar a hacerme un traje formal.
🇬🇧 Do you know any tailor? I need to have a formal suit made.

🇪🇸 ¿Hay algún zapatero cerca? Se me ha roto el tacón de un zapato.
🇬🇧 Is there any shoe repair shop nearby? One of my shoes has a broken heel.

🇪🇸 El mecánico que reparó mi carro es muy recomendable.
🇬🇧 The mechanic that repaired my car is very recommendable.

🇪🇸 Busco a un buen jardinero. El mío se acaba de jubilar.
🇬🇧 I’m looking for a good gardener. Mine has just retired.

🇪🇸 ¿Me puedes recomendar algún gásfiter? La caniería de mi baño tiene una filtración.
🇬🇧 Can you recommend a plumber? The plumbing in my bathroom is leaking. 

🇪🇸 ¿Sabes cuánto cobra un cerrajero por cambiar una cerradura?
🇬🇧 Do you know how much a locksmith charges for changing a lock?

🇪🇸 Si necesitas una niñera, avísame. Tengo un buen dato.
🇬🇧 If you need a babysitter, let me know. I know a good one.

🇪🇸 ¿Me puedes dar el contacto del mueblista que hizo el camarote de tus hijos? Necesito algo parecido. 
🇬🇧 Can you give me the contact number of the furniture maker that made your kids’ bunk bed? I need something similar. 

Describing What Different Professions Do in Spanish

Let’s play a guessing game, shall we?

I’ll describe the typical activities of a profession, and you’ll tell me its name.

This person interviews famous people and writes articles in a newspaper or a magazine.

That’s right! It’s a journalist.

But the game is too easy if we play it in English. 

Let’s raise the stakes and see if we can do the same in Spanish. You’ll find the correct answers at the end of this exercise. 

  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona diagnostica una enfermedad, receta medicamentos y opera a los pacientes. 
    🇬🇧 This person diagnoses a sickness, prescribes medications, and operates on patients. 
  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona actua en películas y en teatro. 
    🇬🇧 This person plays in movies and theater. 
  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona arregla la ropa, hace basta en los pantalones y achica la cintura de una falda.
    🇬🇧 This person repairs your clothes, hems your pants, and alters the waist of your skirt.
  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona cobra por llevarte de un lugar a otro en su carro.
    🇬🇧 This person charges for taking you from one place to another in their car. 
  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona representa a su país en el extranjero y tiene buenas habilidadades diplomáticas. 
    🇬🇧 This person represents his/ her country abroad, and they have good diplomacy skills.
  1. 🇪🇸 Esta persona defiende la ley y la orden en un país. 
    🇬🇧 This person defends law and order in a country.

Answers:

  1. médico / doctor
  2. actor / actriz
  3. costurera / sastre
  4. taxista
  5. embajador
  6. policía

That’s all for today, folks! Such a simple topic, yet we have learned so much.

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Joanna Lupa

Joanna Lupa

Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.