Top U.S. Translation Schools: Master’s and PhD Programs

So, you’ve decided to take the next big step and pursue a Master’s or PhD with a focus in translation and/or interpreting. Finding the program that’s right for you can be exhausting and time consuming, so we’ve put together this list to help you get started.

In this article, you’ll find descriptions of some of the best interpreting and translating Master’s and PhD programs in the country, offering specializations in professional translation, conference and community interpreting, public service interpreting, legal and financial translation, and general translation studies. The list is alphabetical and unranked. Most are full-time programs that will take between one to two years to complete.

If you’re interested in studying translation and interpretation but don’t have the time to devote to an MA or PhD, consider reviewing our list of the top U.S. Certificate Programs.

Binghamton University
Location: Binghamton, New York
Type of Program: MA or PhD (Translation)
Duration: ~ 1.5 years (MA)
Number of credits: 32 (MA)

In addition to their doctorate in translation studies, Binghamton University offers a vocationally-oriented translation studies degree, which must be pursued in conjunction with a graduate certificate in translation. This is the less traditional of two tracks offered within the master of arts program, the more traditional track putting greater emphasis on comparative literature and interdisciplinary studies involving literature. Students who are drawn to the more traditional track may also take the graduate certificate in translation alongside the MA. Notably, for this program, students are required to possess a working knowledge of two foreign languages, and to take literature courses in both.

Kent State
Location: Kent, Ohio
Type of Program: MA or PhD (Translation)
Duration: 2 years (MA)
Number of Credits: 60 (MA)

Kent State offers a PhD and MA in Translation, both of which focus on translation research skills, specialized translation, computer-assisted terminology and translation, software localization and project management for the language industry. For the MA, at least thirty credits must be devoted to study outside of a student’s research and dissertation, including twenty-four credits of core courses, regardless of a student’s area of specialization.

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
Location: Monterey, California
Type of Program: MA (Translation and Interpreting)
Duration: 2 years (4 semesters)
Number of Credits: 60

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey offers a wide variety of degrees that prepare students for professional roles in cross-cultural, multi-lingual environments. They offer four different MAs within the field of translating and interpreting: the MA in translation and localization management, the MA in translation, the MA in translation and interpretation, and the MA in conference interpretation.

We’ll be delving into the localization management degree in a separate article. For the other three areas, students take courses in all three programs in their first year of study and work towards finalizing their degree decision for the second year. Additionally, unlike almost all other MA programs, students can choose to specialize in up to two languages out of the following: Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. The translation MA prepares students for all kinds of translation careers, from medical to legal to literary translation. The program in translation and interpretation broadens the field of study to include interpretation, and the MA in conference interpretation specializes in conference terminology and instructs students in the practices of both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation.

NYU
Location: New York, New York
Type of Program: MS (Translation)
Duration: 12 months – 5 years
Number of Credits: 36

NYU offers an MS in translation that is online for the programs from English to Spanish, Spanish to English, and French to English, and on-sight for Chinese to English. It is one of the only programs in the nation that offers curriculum specifically focused on translating into a language other than English (English to Spanish). The programs focus primarily on legal and financial translation, and the balance of required and elective courses allows students to ultimately focus more on one or the other. Students also learn about translation theory, linguistic analysis, and terminology management, and each language pairing includes background courses in comparative legal systems and economics. Students also benefit from the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development, where they can work with advisors to search for jobs, build their resumes and improve their interviewing skills.

Rutgers University
Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Type of Program: MA (Interpreting and Translation)
Duration: ~2 years
Number of Credits: 30

Rutgers, a research university and the largest institute of higher education in New Jersey, offers a MA in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish. The program includes practice in legal, medical, technical, audiovisual, and literary translation, as well as community, court, and medical interpreting, most of which can be taken as part of 24 required elective credits. Advanced training in project management and translation technology tools is also incorporated. Notably, students can also elect to take courses in translation and interpreter training. A unique requirement of this MA is that all degree candidates must have some experience living in both English and Spanish-speaking countries, whether in a study abroad context or as a life experience. However, this requirement can also be fulfilled by taking part in the department’s Summer Study in Spain Program, or for foreign students from Spanish-speaking countries, through English-language coursework at Rutgers.

University of Illinois
Location: Champaign, Illinois or online
Type of Program: MA (Translation and Interpreting)
Duration: 2 years
Number of Credits: 32

The MA in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Illinois allows students to specialize in Translation for the Professions, Literary and Applied Literary Translation, or Conference and Community Interpreting. Although students can choose to specialize in interpreting, it does appear that the program’s overall focus is geared more towards translation studies, as all core requirements are translation classes and the final project is a Translation Studies Capstone Project. The program is full-time for two years, and can be completed either online or on campus, with the same requirements in either format.

University of Maryland
Location: College Park, Maryland
Type of Program: MPS (Master of Professional Studies in Interpreting)
Duration: 2 years
Number of Credits: 44

The Master in Professional Studies in Interpreting at the University of Maryland offers two tracks of study: Conference or Public Service Interpreting. In both programs, the first year of study is geared towards cultivating the fundamental skills of consecutive interpreting and intercultural communication, while the second year delves into simultaneous interpreting, communication in political, legal, and/or healthcare settings, as well as training in language services management. This is one of the only interpreting programs that offers classes specifically geared towards teaching students the rhetoric of political and business institutions and that also trains students in the use of simultaneous interpreting technologies. It is currently open to students of Chinese, German, and Spanish, although other languages may be accommodated upon request.

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Type of Program: MA (Translation)
Duration: 1-2 years
Number of Credits: 33

The Masters in Translation at Amherst focuses as much on translation theory as it does on the practice of translation, and special interest is given to cultural and literary studies within translation. However, the final thesis does not have to be a literary translation. Instead, students may write on an aspect of translation theory, prepare a comparison of several translations of one original text, do a literary translation or a scientific, legal, medical, technical, or business translation, or create or translate a multi-media project, conduct a field study, or create a translation memory/database. Students must concentrate in two coherent literary/language/cultural traditions, though English can be one of them.

University of Texas at Dallas
Location: Dallas, Texas
Type of Program: MA or PhD
Duration:1.5-3 years
Number of Credits:33-60

The Master of Arts and PhD in Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas are non-traditional degrees that allow students to concentrate their studies around their individual translation interests using an interdisciplinary approach, wherein a focus on Translation Studies is combined with one or more of the following scholarly areas: Literary Studies, History of Ideas, or Aesthetic Studies. Both programs allow for students to major in one of those three areas (i.e. PhD in Humanities with a major in History of Ideas), while gearing their study within the area towards various aspects of Translation Studies. Both programs require 6 credit hours in each of the three areas listed plus a number of electives and a final thesis.

Wake Forest University
Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Type of Program: MA (Interpreting and Translation)
Duration: 1 year/2 years
Number of Credits: 34/37

Wake Forest offers both a Chinese-English and a Spanish-English MA in Interpreting and Translation Studies. The Spanish program consists of 34 credit hours to be completed in one-year of intensive study, while the Chinese program is a bit longer, requiring 37 credit hours to be completed in two years of study. Both tracks are professionally oriented and research-based, aiming to provide students with the foundations to work in a variety of language-oriented capacities, including in foreign affairs, media, business, law, and healthcare delivery. Core required courses include an internship and applied research project in addition to formational courses in applied translation and interpreting, contrastive grammars of the given language pair, localization and terminology, and sociolinguistics and dialectology. Electives, on the other hand, delve into domain specific topics, such as medical and business translation.


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.

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