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Translation License and Certification Facts

A translation license and certification can prepare you for a career that allows you to work in other languages and meet people of other cultures, assisting them with their communication needs. To learn what you need to earn a translation license and certification, read on.

What Type of Programs Are Offered for Translation?

If you're interested in a career as a translator, many schools offer certificate programs that can prepare you for certification. Some schools may also offer degree programs such as a Master of Science in Translation. Although a translation certificate or degree may not be required to become a translator, these programs teach you how to translate documents in ways that are clear and accurately convey meaning. Both types of programs often provide internships or practicums, which give you the translation experience often required for a job.

Some schools offer master's degree programs in translation online, but you may be required to defend your thesis in-person. You may also find individual translation courses offered through distance learning. In some cases, these courses can be applied towards a certificate. Online courses offer the same level of education you'd find in on-campus courses.

Program TypesCertificate programs, M.S. in translation
Common Course TopicsLegal translation, translation in business and finance, computer-aided translation, terminology, theory
Certification & LicensureObtaining credentials is not required, but could enhance your employability
Job Outlook (2016-2026)18% growth (for interpreters and translators)*
Median Salary (2018)$49,930 (for interpreters and translators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Courses Be Like?

Translation programs typically offer a curriculum that includes non-language-specific courses, language-specific courses and electives. Translation is a field that offers many specialties, including medical translation, legal translation or translation in the business world. Although courses may vary depending on your program and chosen language, your topics of study in a certificate program may include:

  • Beginning through advanced translation
  • Medical translation fundamentals
  • Legal translation fundamentals
  • Translation in business and finance

Master's programs in translation typically cover many of the same topics as certificate programs, but you may also take courses in translation practice and theory, computer-aided translation, terminology theory and editing. A master's thesis may be required.

How Will It Help My Career?

As a translator, you may find many employment opportunities. Although translating and interpreting are often thought of as the same, they are different. While translation involves written words, interpreting uses spoken words. In addition to working as a freelance translator, you'll have the training for employment in legal firms, medical facilities and professional organizations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for interpreters and translators is expected to grow up to 18% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). Employment growth may vary by language and specialty. The BLS stated that translators finding the best employment opportunities include Spanish translators and those entering the legal and healthcare fields. The increase in number of non-English speaking individuals entering the United States contributes to the employment growth for translators and interpreters.

Will Translation Programs Provide Me With Certification or Licensure?

Currently there is no specific licensing or certification required for basic translation in the United States. However, you may find that credentialing will enhance your career opportunities. The most common credential is successfully passing a certification exam by the American Translators Association (ATA). Certain careers, such as court interpreting or government work, may also require certification exams.