So you’ve decided to take that next big step, to apply to graduate schools for a Translation Studies degree. But the big questions are rolling around in your head — which of the U.S. schools that offer translation degrees are the best, and what sets each program apart?
As we mentioned in the Translation Degree Overview, graduate degrees and certification programs in translation offer a great foundation in the skills you need for a career in translation or interpreting, but each program is different, and not every one is tailored to your specific goals.
While making the best choice is difficult, it’s always made easier by having the right information. Here’s an explanation of how we researched and ranked the best programs, followed by the top rankings:
The Top 5 Graduate Programs in Translation, and the Top 5 Certificate Programs were determined, first of all, by the mission of each program. Some universities only offer a Master’s or a Doctorate degree, some only offer graduate or professional certificates, and some offer all of the above. We found it necessary to separate the various translation and interpretation programs by degrees or certificates before analyzing any other factors.
Graduate and professional certificate programs vary in length and goal. Some programs offer general translation/interpretation certificates while others focus on medical or court translation. Our rankings attempt to emphasize this diversity of certificate programs.
In order to generally rank the programs, we looked at each program’s enrollment data (as available), the number of languages represented in each program, the varying types of degrees or certificates offered, and the general ability of each program to address a certain field of translation and interpretation (number of courses offered, number of faculty members, department resources, etc.).
It must be emphasized that our rankings are holistic, not reductive. They are not based on statistical analysis and they are not intended to produce a #1 or a #5 program. Instead, the rankings highlight the top translation and interpretation programs in the nation in alphabetical order in an attempt to offer the most unbiased information possible. Here are the Top 10 U.S. Translation Programs:
Top Translation Graduate Schools
Graduates of Translation Studies programs are qualified to work for personal and corporate translation services, as freelance translators, as government agency employees, and as translation software developers.
PhD graduates often stay in academia and teach linguistics or translation studies.
As with any comprehensive humanities degree, a master’s degree or PhD in translation studies allows each student to tailor the program to his or her individual interests.
Founded in 1864, Gallaudet University is a private liberal arts university located in Washington, D.C. As the world’s only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, Gallaudet is a leader in the field of ASL and Deaf Studies. While its undergraduate population is 95% deaf or hard of hearing, the graduate departments are open to deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students.
Instead of a degree in Translation Studies, Gallaudet offers a Masters of Arts in Interpretation, specifically American Sign Language interpretation. The M.A. in Interpretation program is designed to prepare and educate deaf, hard of hearing and hearing persons in working as interpreters in deaf and hearing communities. Through intensive study of American Sign Language, interpretation skills, and professional experience, the M.A. program prepares students for work as an ASL interpreter in all professional fields from medical to legal to conference to community work. The M.A. interpreter preparation program mainly is in a two-year format, which consists of four semesters and one summer internship. The program requires the completion of 59 credit hours of course work. The program is available in a three-year format for students who need an additional year of advanced language classes. Part-time study is also available.
Kent State University is a public liberal arts university located in Northeast Ohio. Comprised of eight different campuses, Kent State is able to provide a small, liberal arts education through a large university system.
The Institute for Applied Linguistics offers a two year Master of Arts in Translation and a PhD in Translation Studies. These translation degree programs focus on translation research skills, specialized translation, computer-assisted terminology and translation, software localization and project management for the language industry, but are also designed to provide a comprehensive foundation for skill development in humanistic translation and translation studies. The IAL’s B.S. and M.A. curricula provide a firm foundation in translation studies and translation practice for students in French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish while the Ph.D. program provides advanced training in translation studies and language informatics.
A center for research in translation studies and in several areas of language engineering (computer-assisted translation and terminology, multilingual document management and cross-language information exchange and retrieval), the IAL is one of America’s leading university-based translator training programs and the only comprehensive B.S. to Ph.D. program.
Located in Monterey, California, the Monterey Institute of International Studies was founded in 1955 as a multilingual, globally focused graduate institute and research center, which, since 2005, is affiliated with Middlebury College. With enrollment around 800 students (all in graduate programs), the Monterey Institute boasts a close-knit, globally focused community.
The Monterey Institute offers a M.A. in Translation, a M.A. in Translation & Localization Management, a M.A. in Translation & Interpretation, and a M.A. in Conference Interpretation. The M.A. in Translation offers students the opportunity to work in a broad range of areas — medical, legal, conference, etc. — and provides the necessary computer and on-the-job training necessary to function as a translator.
The M.A. in Translation & Localization Management, on the other hand, centers around three axes of training: translation, technology, and business management. This translation track develops students’ translation skills, as well as their language and cultural proficiency, through core courses offered, as well as elective courses from the other schools at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The technical courses developed at the Monterey Institute will cover translation technology, software and web site localization, translation automation, processes standardization, IT/workflow strategies, and project management tools. Tools used in class include Alchemy Catalyst, Passolo, SDLX and TRADOS, Star Transit and Workflow. Finally, the business track will cover key business management areas, such as principles of project management, multilingual marketing, managerial economics, product development, and international business strategy in courses offered by the School of International Policy and Management.
The M.A. in Translation & Interpretation program reinforces mastery of the written and oral aspects of the students’ working languages by performing both translation and interpretation of related texts. Recent technological innovations blur the distinction between the two. More than 60 percent of students choose to pursue an MATI degree. Graduates have found that being able to provide both translation and interpretation services gives them a significant edge in today’s competitive job market.
The M.A. in Conference Interpretation prepares students to work as both simultaneous and consecutive interpreters at conferences. In simultaneous interpretation, interpreters sit in soundproof booths (one booth for each language), where they listen to the speech from the meeting room through headsets. As the speaker talks, each interpreter interprets at the same time into his or her native or A language. The interpreter’s words are spoken into a microphone and transmitted via headset to meeting participants. In this manner, the same speech can be interpreted into several languages at once with very little time lag. In each booth, interpreters work as a team, sharing the workload at regular intervals. In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter usually sits with conference delegates while a speech is being made, listens to the speech, and takes notes. When the speaker pauses or finishes, the interpreter renders the speech in the first person in the target language. Speech and interpretation generally occur in segments no longer than 10-15 minutes. Most graduates of the MACI program work as freelance interpreters, although some do work with larger organizations like the United Nations and the U.S. State Department.
Unlike most of the other translation graduate programs, the Translation Research and Instruction Program at State University New York, Binghamton, focuses on the PhD in Translation Studies (the school also offers a Graduate Certificate in Translation Research and Instruction, and an undergrad Minor in Translation, but no MA). SUNY Binghamton is a campus of the State University of New York university system and is located in south-central New York.
The PhD in Translation Studies is the first of its kind in the United States and prepares students both for the professoriate and for scholarly research-including research-informed translation and offers individualized interdisciplinary tracks to accommodate a variety of backgrounds. Courses focus on the history and traditions of Translation Studies, comparative literature, cultural and postcolonial studies, national literatures and major figures, philosophy, and pedagogy, as well as individualized programs of study. Rather than preparing students for professional work as a translator or interpreter (which students can definitely choose to do at the completion of the degree), the PhD prepares students for academic work — either in research or in teaching.
The Center for Translation Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas was established in 1980 to support the scholarly analysis and creation of literary translations, to collaborate with writers, scholars, and publishers around the world, to enhance the visibility of the translator as a mediator between cultures, to develop innovative translation workshop pedagogy, and to publish the international journal Translation Review.
The Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities are non-traditional degrees that allow students to concentrate their graduate studies around their individual interests in Translation Studies. At the same time, this approach allows students to explore other scholarly contexts from an interdisciplinary point of view, thus enriching their understanding of Translation Studies and preparing them for a wider variety of jobs than a more specialized degree would. Faculty within The Center for Translation Studies and The School of Arts & Humanities work closely with students to design degree plans with an emphasis on Translation Studies that also supply a broad general background in one or more of three scholarly areas: Literary Studies; History of Ideas; and Aesthetic Studies.
Top Translation Certification Programs
Dozens of translation certification programs exist in the United States and narrowing down the programs can be daunting. Some certificates are general French translation, German translation, Spanish translation, etc., but some are more specific: legal, medical, conference interpreting.
The general certificates function like the graduate degrees in translation studies. They allow for a translator to gain advanced study in the foreign language as well as to take courses specific to the profession. Legal translation and interpreting certificates prepare candidates to work in legal and courtroom settings. In order to become a court interpreter, one must pass a state-specific test (comprised of a written and oral component) for both English and the foreign language. The certificate program helps to prepare candidates for translating or interpreting in a legal setting by focusing on legal vernacular, the professional conduct of a courtroom translator, and state court test preparation. Likewise, medical translation certification focuses on medical vernacular and professional conduct as a translator or interpreter in a hospital or other medical setting. Conference interpreter certificate programs prepare candidates for translating and interpreting at conferences and seminars.
These certificate programs vary in time and cost, but most are designed for the professional student and take place at night or in two week commitments over a period of one to two years.
In Washington D.C., American University offers Graduate Certificates in Translation from either French, Russian , or Spanish to English. The certificate program consists of 15 credit hours, including advanced courses in Translation and Linguistics which can also be applied towards a foreign language MA.
Boston University offers professional certificates in community, legal, and medical interpreting with specializations in Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The program focuses on the linguistic techniques and ethical considerations of the interpreting profession, and organizes students in Cohort Groups based on their language specialization.
Located in Miami, Florida International offers a Certificate in Translation Studies (English / Spanish) and certificate in Legal Translation and Court Interpreting (English / Spanish). Established in 1980, the program offers classes in the evenings and weekends, and allows students to take up to five courses before making a commitment.
Located in Atlanta and established in 1979, Georgia State University’s Translation Certificate Program offers specializations in French, German, and Spanish translation, as well as French and Spanish Interpreting for medical, legal, and conference interpretation. The program consists of 15 semester hours which include classes in comparative stylistics, general and advanced translation, and a translation workshop.
NYU offers professional certificates in general translation, medical interpreting, court interpreting (Spanish/English), simultaneous interpreting, and general language studies certificates in Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and language groups such as Slavic, East Asian, Middle Eastern, Scandinavian, and Classical languages.
We hope that this information helps you to get started preparing for graduate studies in translation or interpreting. Translating and interpreting are demanding, competitive, and rewarding professions that require a lot of training, thought, and discipline, so good luck with your preparation and career.
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