Masters in Translation

At the BxlTweetUp a couple of weeks ago, we spent a bit of time talking about the differences between the masters degrees we each completed, mine in the UK and Emeline’s and Marie’s in Belgium and I thought it might be useful to write a post about what I got out of my Masters degree, and what I think was missing.   It will be quite a personal post, obviously, but hopefully this will be helpful to people looking at the next steps to take after an undergrad degree.


In Other Words – also known as the student translator’s bible

Committing to another year of studying, and the cost of the Masters, was not a decision I took lightly. However, from what I have seen online on translation agency application forms, and from speaking to other more experienced translators, it really seems like a Masters is now the minimum requirement for a career as a translator, obviously unless you are coming into the profession with many years of proven experience in a specific field.

So, what did I actually gain from completing this Masters? Well, an internationally recognised qualification, which acts as a ‘foot in the door’ with a lot of agencies and clients. It also helped me to work on my capacity for critical thinking and analysis, particularly with analysing my own translations, which makes up quite a sizeable chunk of the assignments over the course of the Masters. And I feel like I have a good knowledge, both in terms of breadth and depth, of many aspects of translation theory.

But the one thing I feel was missing was any element really aimed at the day-to-day business of translation. Project workflows, agency etiquette, the actual expectations of clients – none of this really came up. I’m not sure if the words ‘project manager’ were mentioned even once. To get an idea of what the profession is ‘really’ like, students need to be proactive and get in touch with agencies and other translators – find out about the real world! I know in Belgium the Masters includes an internship, which is something I think was really missing for me.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Simply having the qualification alone, without all of the extra knowledge I learnt, would be worth the time and money. However, it’s important not to think that a Masters will give you everything you need to be a star translator straight away – that is very much down to you!

1 Comment

  1. Loved your post, Carol!
    It was a great idea to talk about your Master’s.
    I also have a Master’s degree in Translation (Translation Studies with Intercultural Communication, to be specific, from the University of Surrey, England) myself (besides a BA, but this one here in Brazil), and they were the best experiences I had in my life. They shaped my theoretical background knowledge and helped me have a professional look towards the profession.
    As for the lack of info about the actual routine of a translator, I don’t think any profession has that. First of all, because all that pratical process varies according to several factors (it’s different from agency to agency, from client to client, from country to country, etc.). Besides, usually, teachers are more into the academic environment, they are not active as translators in the market, so they don’t really know how it works.

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