The benefits of an MA in Translation Studies for professional translators

Written by MA Translation Studies student Rebecca Ellerker

Firstly, let’s state the most obvious benefit: MA in Translation Studies graduates are awarded a qualification that is recognised by employers, clients and professional bodies. In a competitive industry, translators who have successfully gained an MA in Translation Studies stand out from those who haven’t committed to a higher-level qualification. When bidding and competing for work, this could be the key to securing contracts. In addition, professional bodies in the industry offer student membership options, providing access to a wealth of resources and support. These can be converted to a full membership upon graduating and entering the industry in a professional capacity.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has published ISO 17100:2015 relating to Language Service Providers (LSPs). It states that all translators employed by LSPs must have either a degree in translation (or related subject) or several years of experience. For the novice translator without a degree in translation, this represents a problem and the most effective solution is to embark on a programme of postgraduate study.

It must be said that having an MA is not in itself a guarantee of a quality translator; however, the programme at Exeter is structured to build rapidly students’ skills with a carefully balanced mix of practice and theory. Successful students engage critically with the course content and develop the required knowledge and abilities to succeed as professional translators. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits the course offers:

  • Throughout the core practical modules, students work with a range of texts that have been chosen specifically for their level of challenge. The opportunity to work alongside teaching staff and peers, and to discuss the translations in depth, is invaluable. It allows students to build their own translation processes and methods as they develop in confidence and ability.
  • The MA in Translation Studies can be tailored to cater for individual interests. Students benefit from a wide exposure to different areas of translation, such as specialist translation, literary translation and professional training in the use of CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools.
  • The course places a great deal of emphasis on building professional skills and preparing graduates to work in industry. Students who engage fully with the summative and formative assessments are able to hone many of the required skills: how to effectively use CAT tools to increase productivity; how to pitch effectively to a publisher; or strategies for translating technical terminology.
  • The summative translation assignments completed during the programme form the beginnings of a professional portfolio. The University of Exeter has links with the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), allowing students who reach a sufficiently high standard, to have their work assessed by a CIOL moderator for exemption from one of the corresponding DipTrans exam units.
  • Students can choose to benefit from a work placement module. This provides the opportunity to work in the industry and gain experience and contacts, as well as try out and improve newly learnt translation skills.
  • The final component of the MA at Exeter is the dissertation, and for those wishing to work professionally as a translator, it is the perfect opportunity to work on a larger project of individual choosing, tailored to suit students’ preferred specialisms and/or areas of expertise. Similarly, a high level of attainment in this module allows graduates exemption from the examination to achieve the sought after MITI status (Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting).

The MA in Translation Studies is more than a means to an end and offers successful graduates much more than a piece of paper. Arguably, the wealth of experience from the teaching staff, fellow students and alumni, the emphasis on professional preparation, along with life-long contacts and networks, are amongst the most important benefits of the course.