Beyond Words - Language Blog

Top U.S. Translation Schools: Online Programs

Looking to start your career as a translator or interpreter, but can’t seem to find a good program in your area? There are a number of certificate and master’s programs offered entirely online, allowing students to set their own pace of study regardless of their physical location.

The list we’ve put together covers some of the best university-affiliated online programs in translation and interpreting. They are listed in alphabetical, unranked order. Most of them are non-specialized, meaning that they start with a couple of foundational courses in translation and/or interpreting, and then allow students to select specialized electives, such as financial, technical, or literary translation, consecutive or simultaneous interpreting, etc. 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.

Whether you’re looking to take a specialized certificate or an advanced degree, the recent growth of the translation and interpreting industries means that it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for online. While the majority of campus-based programs only cater to students of specific language pairs, about half of online programs are non-language specific, offering a major benefit to students working with languages that are less common.

Florida International University
Location: Miami, Florida or online
Type of Program: Certificate (Translation or Interpretation)
Number of Credits: 18

FIU’s Certificate program is unique in that students start with two introductory classes (foundations of translation and foundations of interpreting) and then go on to select four more specialized classes in the discipline and industry they feel drawn to. Classes range from medical, legal, business and conference interpreting to oral skills for interpreters, computer aided translation and even a judicial T & I internship. As one of the only certificate programs that allows for this level of exploration, this program is especially geared toward students at the beginning of their careers who aren’t yet sure of what they want to specialize in. Interpreting courses are open to all languages, while translation is available only for Spanish. Course are offered both in person (Saturdays and evenings) and online.
Note: Applicants to this program must hold a bachelor’s degree (some exceptions apply).

Kent State
Location: Kent, Ohio or online
Type of Program: MA (Translation)
Duration: 2 years
Number of Credits:36

Kent State is a large public research university with eight regional campuses spread throughout Northeast Ohio, allowing students the feel of a small, liberal arts education through a large university system. The MA in translation is offered both on campus and online for Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian. Unlike other MA programs in translation, students do not specialize in one type of translation, but instead are required to study many different fields (literary and cultural; commercial, legal, and diplomatic; and scientific, medical, and technical translation). Practical courses in software localization and project management are also offered. Ultimately, this program finds a good home within the Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State, which is a leader in language engineering (computer-assisted translation and terminology, multilingual document management, and cross-language information exchange and retrieval) and research in translation studies.

NYU
Location: New York, New York or online
Type of Program: Certificate (translation)
Duration: up to 3 years
Number of Credits: 5 classes

In addition to their MS in translation, NYU offers a Certificate in Translation Industry Essentials, which consists of two courses in translation fundamentals, the second of which covers translation technology and terminology management, followed by three electives. The electives offered include traditional topics, such as commercial, technical, and financial translation, as well as subjects that are fairly unique to non-specialized programs, such as audiovisual translation (i.e. subtitling and dubbing); precis writing, report writing, and editing for international organizations; and transcreation and localization (which is usually only found in more advanced degree programs, such as MAs in translation). This is also one of few certificate programs that is not language specific, meaning that it is open to all language pairs.

University of Massachusetts Boston
Location: Online
Type of Program: Certificate (Translation)
Duration: 1 year
Number of Credits: 12 (2 courses)

The certificate program at University of Massachusetts Boston consists of just two translation courses – Advanced Techniques and Skills for Translators and Advanced Practice of Translation – one in the fall and one in the spring semester. In these two courses, students practice the techniques of legal, medical, technical, general, and literary translation and learn to use essential translation reference materials (although it does not appear that training in use of computer assisted translation is incorporated into the courses).

University of Milwaukee
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin or online
Type of Program: MA/Graduate Certificate (translation or interpretation)
Duration: 2-5 years
Number of Credits:30/21

The University of Milwaukee offers two graduate certificates, one in interpretation and one in translation, as well as an MA. There are a number of different degree tracks possible in the MA program: working from Arabic, French, German, Russian, or Spanish to English, students can choose either a professional or research track as translators, or an interpreting track. Within the university’s coordinated degree programs, students can also earn a dual Masters in Library and Information Sciences and Masters in Language, Literature and Translation, or a Master of Business Administration and Masters in Language, Literature and Translation.

The graduate certificates work a little differently. Designed for students holding an undergraduate degree and either a graduate degree or significant industry experience, these are non-specialized certificates, allowing students to gear their studies towards the topic and domain of their choice. As in the MA program, all courses are offered both online and on-site at the University of Milwaukee. Additionally, credits are transferable to the MA if a student desires to continue their studies upon completion of the certificate.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Location: Online
Type of Program: MA/Certificate (Translation and Interpreting)
Number of Credits: 36/15

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers both an MA and a certificate in Translation and Interpreting. The MA provides instruction in general and specialized translation, translation technologies, and simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, and requires courses in translation theory, research in translation studies, and translation project management. Although students do not specialize in one type of translation or interpreting, they can choose from a number of specialized elective courses, ranging from medical interpreting to business or audiovisual translation. Uniquely, this is one of the only Master’s programs that focuses as much on translating from English into the target language (in this case Spanish) as it does on translating from the target language into English.

The certificate in Spanish Translating and Interpreting, also dictated entirely online, includes three required courses in translation, and two more specialized electives within the field of either translation or interpreting. However, it appears that this certificate is aimed to be an adjunct for people looking to begin careers in related fields, such as nursing, criminal justice, business management, or community or school interpreting, rather than students who are looking to build a full-time career within the interpreting or translation fields.

Western Oregon University
Location: Online
Type of Program: MA (Interpreting)
Duration: 1.5 years
Number of Credits: 45-54
Western Oregon University offers an online MA in Interpreting Studies with three different possible tracks: Theory and Practice Interpreting, Advanced Interpreting, and Teaching Interpreting. All three tracks are designed for students who already have professional interpreting or mentoring experience, and are looking to either improve their practice, or learn about teaching interpreting. Uniquely, this is one of the only MA programs that is open to students of all language pairs, including sign language.


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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