Top U.S. Translation Schools: Certificate Programs

Top US Translation School

If you’re new to the translation and interpretation industry and not quite sure you want to make the full investment in a master’s degree yet, a certificate from a university may be right for you. Certificates come in all shapes and sizes, and narrowing down the list of choices can be daunting. So before getting into the programs themselves, we’ve outlined a couple of things you may want to think about while you’re getting started.

Generalized or Specialized?

There are basically two kinds of certificate programs: generalized and specialized. Generalized certificates usually provide students with foundational theoretical classes, classes on translation or interpreting technologies, and then the option to take electives specialized to professional domains. Specialized certificates, on the other hand, often serve as prerequisites to working in specific fields. For example, most hospitals and clinics hiring medical interpreters require the minimum completion of a forty-hour medical interpreting certificate. Specialized certificates are also offered through organizations that are not affiliated with universities, such as ALTA’s 40-hour medical interpreter training course, often at a fraction of the cost and time.

Graduate or Non-Graduate?

Once you’ve decided between a specialized or non-specialized program, you’ll want to consider if you should take a non-graduate certificate (usually undergraduate level) or a graduate certificate. Non-graduate certificates are more frequently specialized to one professional domain, while graduate certificates tend to be more broadly focused. Non-graduate certificates usually require students to hold a high school diploma and a high level of fluency in English and at least one other language. Graduate certificates often require either a bachelor’s degree in a related field, or a bachelor’s degree and related professional experience. Admission to some graduate certificate programs can be highly selective, but often allow students to transfer their credits to a master’s program down the road.

Certificate Programs

The following is an alphabetical list of some of the best on-site translation and interpreting programs around the country. Most of them take between one and two years to complete, and are geared towards working professionals, meaning that they offer classes in the evening and on weekends. You can find more certificate programs in the related article on online interpreting and translation programs

  • American University
    Location: Washington DC
    Type of program: Certificate (Translation)
    Number of Credits: 15

    American University offers translation certificates in Spanish, Russian, and French. These programs emphasize translation into English and can be done at a fairly leisurely pace. The certificates require the completion of at least six credits a year (two classes), and the completion of all fifteen credits (five classes) within a four-year period. Though the programs are not specialized, each one works out to have its own particular flavor: Spanish offers surveys of Latin American art and culture and US cultural and political relations with Latin America, French offers classes focusing on literary translation and business translation (intended to prepare students for the Certificat Pratique examination), and Russian focuses on contemporary political culture and business translation.

  • Bellevue College
    Location: Bellevue, Washington
    Type of Program: Certificate (Interpreting or Translating)
    Number of Credits: 24

    Bellevue’s programs in translation and interpreting cover general theory and practical skills for people looking to begin their careers in either of these industries. A couple of things that are unique to Bellevue’s programs are that they include classes on using translation and interpreting technology, including Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools, and basic website building for people who are looking to set up their own businesses. To this end, they also cover current industry business practices, including how to create and negotiate contracts, and prerequisites for starting a business in terms of licenses, equipment, and fees.

  • Georgie State University
    Location: Atlanta, Georgia
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation or Interpreting)
    Number of Credits: 4-5 classes

    The translation program at Georgia State University is offered for German, French, and Spanish, and consists of one class in comparative stylistics, one class in general translation, two classes in specialized translation, and a final translation workshop. The interpreting program specializes in medical and court interpreting in Spanish only. One interesting aspect of this program is that participating students who hold a bachelor’s degree are eligible to take undergraduate courses in the university during the time they are enrolled in the certificate program.

  • Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis
    Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation)
    Number of Credits:18

    IUPUI is a large public research university that offers graduate certificates in French, Spanish, and German. The certificate program begins with two introductory courses on the history and theory of translation, which are followed by specialized sequence courses that look at six different kinds of translation: business, legal, governmental, technical, scientific, and medical. The certificate culminates in an internship personalized to the student’s area of interest, followed by a final translation project. Notably, IUPUI has a more rigorous application process than many other certificate programs and is one of few universities that requires applicants to hold a BA in their second language, a BA in English, or a BA or BS in a subject related to their intended field of translation.

  • Montclair State University
    Location: Montclair, New Jersey
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation and Interpreting)
    Number of Credits: 12

    Montclair University offers twelve credit Translation and Interpreting in Spanish Certificate at the graduate level. The course’s emphasis is on medical and legal domains, and it consists of four classes: Translation and Health, Translation and the Law, Simultaneous Interpretation, and Consecutive Interpretation.

  • University of Louisville
    Location: Louisville, Kentucky
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation and Interpreting)
    Number of Credits: 15

    At the University of Louisville, one of the two foundational courses required as part of the Graduate Certificate in Translation and Interpreting (Spanish only) is dedicated to computers and translation, teaching students about the wide array of technologies that are invaluable to building a successful career as a translator. From there, students select two specialized courses in topics ranging from literary and cultural translation to medical or legal translation and interpreting or even an independent study. Unlike many other programs, Louisville appears to view translation and interpreting holistically, as two fields to be studied together, rather than as mutual exclusives. To that end, in addition to the fact that, within fields where both interpreting and translation are common (i.e. medical, legal), they are taught together (e.g. one class is called medical translating and interpreting), this certificate culminates in a translation AND interpreting project, rather than one or the other.

  • University of Maryland
    Location: College Park, Maryland
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation)
    Number of Credits: 21

    The translation program at the University of Maryland offers a Graduate Certificate in Translation as an alternative to the full MPS in Translation. Like the MPS, the certificate program emphasizes the use of computer assisted translation tools, the necessity of a working knowledge of topics that characterize private and public sector settings, and an understanding of the history and current developments and practices of institutions that provide or rely on translation services. Upon completion of the certificate, students who wish to continue in the master’s program may apply to do so.

  • University of North Carolina – Charlotte
    Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
    Type of Program: Graduate Certificate (Translation)
    Number of Credits: 12

    UNC Charlotte’s graduate certificate in translation focuses on the history, theory, methodology, and profession of translation. Students analyze and translate literary and non-literary texts, working both from their target language into English and vice versa. Languages offered include Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Russian. Students also learn about computer assisted translation and may take courses in special topics.

  • Rutgers University
    Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
    Type of Program: Certificate (Translation and/or Interpreting)
    Number of Credits: 19-21

    In addition to an MA in Interpreting and Translation, Rutgers offers two certificates: The Certificate in Spanish-English Translation, and the Certificate of Proficiency in Spanish-English Translation and Interpreting. While the latter requires students to take classes in court, hospital, and community interpreting, the former offers these courses as electives. Both certificates, however, require foundational courses in both translation and interpreting. Notably, to apply for this program as a non-matriculated student, you must apply both for admission to the program and to Rutgers University as well.

  • San Diego State University
    Location: San Diego, California
    Type of Program: Certificate (Translation and Interpreting)
    Number of Credits: 15

    San Diego State University offers a certificate in translation and interpretation, where students ultimately concentrate in one of the two. Required courses focus on simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, as well as translation theory and advanced translation. The program is only offered for students of Spanish-English.

  • Wake Forest University
    Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    Type of Program: Certificate (Interpreting or Translation)
    Number of Credits: 15

    Wake Forest offers two graduate level certificates for students working with the English-Spanish language pair: The Graduate Certificate in Interpreting Studies and the Graduate Certificate in Translation Studies. Additionally, they offer a non-language specific Graduate Certificate in Intercultural Services in Healthcare. Both the interpreting and translation certificates are non-specialized – they focus on a holistic approach to translation and interpreting, offering classes on subjects such as discourse organization, localization and technology, and cross-cultural communication in lieu of sector-specific electives such as medical or legal interpreting. The Graduate Certificate in Intercultural Services in Healthcare, on the other hand, provides instruction in health communication, applied interpreting studies, organizational behavior and interpreting, and localization and terminology. Similar to other graduate certificate programs, these programs allow for a transfer of credits if a student decides to apply for an MA upon completion of the certificate. All certificates include five required courses that must be completed within four consecutive semesters.


Janet Barrow writes about the places where language meets history, culture, and politics. She studied Written Arts at Bard College and has fiction work forthcoming in Easy Street. Recently, she completed a diploma in medical interpreting. Raised in Minnesota, she currently lives in Lima, Peru.

1 Comment
  • Adenike Adeleke
    Posted at 23:45h, 12 December Reply

    I am interested in the certificate programs described above ,what are the requirements to enroll in the programs?

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