Translation Degree Program Information

Those interested in foreign languages and learning about other cultures may consider a degree in translation studies. Offered at all levels of postsecondary education, this field of study prepares individuals for translation careers in a variety of domestic and cross-cultural industries.

Essential Information

Most translation degree programs are offered at the master's level, but a few colleges and universities offer bachelor's and PhD translation programs. Learning about types of translation, as well as cultural awareness and translation for specific professions, is central to translation training. Some programs also require students to pursue a minor to provide them with expertise in a field where they can use their translation skills. Students may also participate in practical experiences such as study abroad and research. Graduates at all program levels can attain voluntary certification to add more credibility to their resume.

  • Program Levels in Translation: Bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate degree.
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or GED, master's programs expect a bachelor's degree and proficiency in English and a foreign language, doctoral degrees mandate a master's degree and fluency in English and a foreign language.
  • Online Availability: Online courses and programs are available.
  • Program Length: Four years for bachelor's degree; two years for master's degree; 4-7 years for a doctorate.

Bachelor's Degree in Translation

Since few postsecondary schools offer translation studies at this degree level, each program may only offer one or two foreign languages from which applicants can choose. However, those who do enroll learn different types of translation techniques as well as terminology and linguistics knowledge in their target language. Learning about cultures of people who are native to the language is also incorporated into the curriculum, as well as cultural immersion via study abroad experiences. Some typical classes may include:

  • Foreign literature
  • World civilizations
  • Phonetics and diction (of foreign language)
  • Translation technologies
  • Commercial translation

Master's Degree Programs

While pursuing a master's degree in translation, students are taught how to translate the written word while learning about the cultures of the people who speak the translated languages. Students also learn about the translation needs of various professions and how to provide those skills. They also participate in research projects and practical training. Some common classes may include:

  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Translation computer application
  • Literary translation
  • Technical translation
  • Legal translation
  • Financial translation

Doctoral Degree in Translation

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program provides students with the opportunity to pursue research interests within the translational studies field, and prepares them for careers in research or teaching at the university level. Students do receive some classroom instruction that expands upon the knowledge gained at lower program levels, but most of their schooling is spent participating in research projects. Some courses may include:

  • Translation practice
  • Applied linguistics
  • Translation trends
  • Terminology
  • Translation history

Popular Career Choices

Bachelor's degrees in translation can qualify graduates for jobs in various job fields such as law, hospitality and travel, publishing and healthcare. Some job prospects include:

  • Translator
  • Tour guide
  • Book translator
  • Interpreter

Employment Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interpreter and translator jobs should rise 46% from 2012 to 2022 ( This faster than average boost is credited to more non-English speakers visiting and moving to the U.S. as well as expanding global connections. The translators with the best job prospects are those proficient in in-demand languages such as French, Spanish and German; there's also an increasing need for translators proficient in Middle Eastern and Asian languages.

Large metropolitan areas and areas with high immigration populations are where the best job prospects are for translators. Translators with expertise in law, healthcare, localization and sign language should have the most options available. Several factors influence a translator's salary including language, education, certification and employer. The BLS reported that translators earned an average annual income of $49,320 in May 2014.

Continuing Education

Translators can attain voluntary certification to help validate their expertise to employers and clients. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers several certifications for translating from and into English from another language. Applicants must meet certain education and/or professional experience requirements and pass an exam to receive the certification.

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