Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a translator, you should take a variety of English courses, because most translation work in the United States is from a foreign language into English. The study of one or more foreign languages is vital. If you are interested in becoming proficient in one or more of the Romance languages, such as Italian, French, or Spanish, basic courses in Latin will be useful. Other helpful courses include world history, geography, political science, speech, business, cultural studies, and humanities. In fact, any course that emphasizes the written word will be valuable to aspiring translators. In addition, knowledge of a particular subject matter in which you may have interest, such as health, law, and science or a type of literary writing style, will give you a professional edge if you want to specialize. Finally, courses in typing and word processing are recommended. 

Postsecondary Training

You'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in translation, linguistics, or a related field. Some translators have degrees in literature, history, law, medicine, or other areas related to their professional specialty. Many government or high-level positions require a master's degree.

Hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States offer degrees in languages. In addition, educational institutions now provide programs and degrees specialized for translating. Georgetown University ( offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in linguistics. Graduate degrees in translation may be earned at the University of California at Santa Barbara (, University of Puerto Rico (, and Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey ( Many of these programs include both general and specialized courses, such as legal translation.

Academic programs for the training of translators can be found in Europe as well. The University of Geneva’s Faculty of Translation and Interpreting ( is highly regarded among professionals in the field. 

The American Translators Association provides a list of member schools that provide translation and interpreting courses at its Web site,

Other Education or Training

The American Translators Association offers webinars for freelance translators. Recent topics include how to break into the field of freelance translation, tax issues, and translation environment database tools. It also provides professional development conferences and seminars on topics such as translation tools, business issues, and legal and medical translation. Other organizations that provide conference seminars, webinars, workshops, and other learning opportunities include the American Literary Translators Association, Dictionary Society of North America, and Editorial Freelancers Association. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Foreign language translators may be granted certification by the American Translators Association (ATA) upon successful completion of required exams. ATA certification is available for translators who translate the following languages into English: Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian. Certification is also available for translators who translate English into the following languages: Arabic, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Three to five years of experience with a foreign language and translation is needed to enter the field. Try to participate in volunteer or informal activities that allow you to practice your foreign language and translation skills.

Translators should be knowledgeable of not only the foreign language but also of the culture and social norms of the region or country in which it is spoken. Translators should read daily newspapers in the languages in which they specialize to keep current in both developments and usage. They also should have self-discipline and patience. Above all, they should have an interest in and love of language.