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Top U.S. Translation Schools: Specialized Programs

With the nearly exponential growth of the translation and interpretation industries over the past few decades, unique new language studies programs at universities seem to be cropping up all the time. Finding a program or degree that’s right for you can be exhausting and time consuming, so we’ve put together a list to help you get started. This is part 3 in our overall series of the best educational language programs in the U.S.

From an MFA in poetry translation to an MA in localization management, our list of specialized degrees outlines a number of great educational programs that offer unique opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else. Most of them are full-time programs that take between one and four years to complete, and many take an interdisciplinary approach, allowing students to pursue dual or concurrent degrees and to explore widely in fields related to their particular specializations. The list is unranked, alphabetical order.
Be sure to also check out our list of Master’s and PhD programs, which includes descriptions of some of the country’s best graduate programs in interpreting and translation.

Binghamton University
Location: Binghamton, New York
Type of Program: PhD in Translation Studies
Duration: ~ 2 years
Number of credits: 48 (without a previous MA), or 36 (with a previous MA)

The doctoral degree at Binghamton is the first PhD in translation studies in the United States. It prepares students to work as professors in the field of translation and to perform scholarly research, including research-informed translation. The curriculum includes, but is not limited to, history and traditions of translation studies, cultural and postcolonial studies, national literatures and major figures, philosophy, and pedagogy. To ensure that students are not limited in their studies, Binghamton offers inter-disciplinary individualized tracks. This allows students to specialize in both literary and non-literary translation and to immerse themselves in related fields (anthropology, sociology, comparative literature, business or the sciences, etc.) to get the most out of their educations.

Colombia University
Location: New York, New York
Type of Program: Master of Arts in Russian Translation
Duration: 1-4 years
Number of Credits: 30

Columbia’s MA is specifically for Russian translation, and is a terminal degree, meaning that it does not lead toward a doctorate. The program is geared toward literary translation and consists of 30 credits of classes in Russian language, literature, history, culture, or other related fields, followed by an individual translation project. It should be noted that this is a highly competitive program, and the rate of admission is fairly low.

Drew University
Location: Madison, New Jersey
Type of Program: MFA in Poetry in Translation
Duration: 2 years
Number of Credits:64

Drew University is the only university in the country that offers an MFA exclusively in poetry translation. The program consists of four semesters, each of which is divided into two parts: the residency and the mentorship. During the residency portion, students take a translation workshop and a craft seminar, whereas during the mentorship portion, they work with a mentor to translate a series of 15 to 18 poems and do a critical reading and response to 20 to 25 books of poetry and essays on poetry. In the final semester, students complete a large-scale translation project.

Gallaudet University
Location: Washington DC
Type of Program: PhD or MA in Interpretation
Number of Credits: 30-48

Founded in 1864, Gallaudet University is the world’s only university in which all courses are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. In addition to a PhD in interpretation, it offers two graduate programs in American Sign Language Interpretation: a MA in interpreting research, and a MA in combined interpreting practice and research. The former is a one-year, 30-credit program that includes an overview research course followed by two semesters of guided research courses with the goal of producing an original study in publishable form. The combined interpreting practice and research program includes all the requirements of the former, but additionally trains students in ASL interpreting in education, business and government, medical, mental health, and legal settings. The MA program follows a two-year, 48 credit format and culminates with a summer internship, while the PhD program requires a minimum of 46 credits of coursework plus dissertation research.

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

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey offers a wide variety of acclaimed 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.

The MA in translation and localization management is the first and only program of its kind in the United States. For those unfamiliar with the term, localization is the process of adapting the content related to a product, service, or idea to the language and culture of a specific market or region. Students build a strong foundation in cross-cultural understanding and communication and specialize their knowledge in either translation, localization, or management. In lieu of an independent research project, in the second year of the program, they work in a student-driven translation agency called Globe Multilingual Services, where they build connections in the global marketplace, and practice working together on large-scale multi-lingual projects.

Queens College of the City University of New York
Location: Queens, New York
Type of Program: MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation
Duration: 2-3 years
Number of Credits: 36

The MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at CUNY Queens is one of very few MFA programs in the country to offer degrees not only in poetry and prose, but also in playwriting and literary translation. Classes are taken evenings or nights, allowing students to work while completing their degrees, and most students take two to three classes each semester, plus a full year to complete their final project. In addition to the final project, the literary translation track includes two translation workshops and two creative writing workshops, a literary theory class, two craft/form classes, and three literature electives.

University of Arkansas
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
Type of Program: MFA in Creative Writing & Translation
Duration: ~4 years
Number of Credits: 60

The MFA in Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas is a highly selective program, admitting up to only five students per year in each of three concentrations: fiction, poetry, and literary translation. Student time is split between writing workshops, craft courses, advanced courses, and the production of a book-length final thesis. In additional to translation workshops, students in the translation track traditionally take workshops in both fiction and poetry, as well as a number of literature courses in their source languages. Due to the length of this particular MFA, students are able to explore widely outside of their own concentration.

University of Iowa
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Type of Program: MFA in Literary Translation
Number of Credits:48

The MFA in literary translation at the University of Iowa is probably one of the most highly regarded in the world, let alone the United States. Like many other graduate programs in literary translation, it encourages interdisciplinary study, allowing qualified students to pursue concurrent MFAs, MA/MFAs, or PhD/MFAs both inside the Division of Translation and across the writing and other graduate programs. The university holds faculty working in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Swahili, and Turkish, and its translation program is therefore open to students working with any of these languages. The program balances hands on, collaborative training in the practice of literary translation with the theoretical study of translation and includes incredibly opportunities, such as the Translator-in-Residence Workshop and the International Writing Program Translation Workshop, which allow students to work directly with renowned translators and even provides them the opportunity to translate the work of noted and emerging international writers.

University of Maryland
Location: College Park, Maryland
Type of Program: MPS in Translation
Duration: 2 years
Number of Credits: 41

The Master of Professional Studies in Translation at the University of Maryland is designed to give students the skills to work successfully as specialized translators, project managers, or administrators of language services. It offers two tracks of study: Translation or Localization Project Management Translation. In both programs, the first year of study is geared towards training in the fundamentals of translation, intercultural communication, and background knowledge in political, legal, health, or other specific domains of communication. The second year brings students into advanced study of these topics, and also introduces them to computer assisted translation tools. Like the university’s interpreting program, classes are open to students of Chinese, German, and Spanish, though other languages may be accommodated.
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.


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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