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That’s it, you’ve decided your professional future lies in translation. Excellent choice! Your next move is to find the path that’s right for you among a wealth of possibilities. Here are some things to consider that might make it easier for you to settle on one.

Working languages and academic programs

First, you need to consider your working languages, meaning your source and target languages. In Canada, the main language pairs are English to French and French to English. As translation requires mastery of the output language, translators here generally translate only one way, into their first language.

French is my first language, so I translate into French.

English is my first language, so I translate into English.

Translation programs at Canadian universities focus largely on those two languages, and offer everything from certificates to PhDs, although a bachelor’s degree usually provides the most well-rounded education. The typical curriculum will cover the history and theory of translation, software tools, writing techniques, terminology, linguistics, specialized translation, applied translation and more, and will enable you to hone your understanding of the source language and expertise in the target language.

There are plenty of universities to choose from. To make an informed decision, it’s worth taking a close look at what each of their translation programs has to offer. Keep in mind that some universities have CEGEP- or university-level courses as prerequisites and may use English and French proficiency tests as part of the selection process.

Specializations

If you are interested in translation and already have a degree in, say, law, finance or pharmacology, why not put that knowledge to use and become a specialized translator in that field? There are several ways to make that leap, including with an advanced graduate diploma, bachelor’s degree, major, minor or certificate in translation.

In contrast, if you don’t fit that profile but would like to, you can study specialized languages as part of a bachelor’s degree in translation. That way, in addition to getting a solid grounding in general translation, you will learn the fundamentals of your discipline of choice. Typically, your options will include scientific, technical, biomedical, pharmaceutical, economic, business or legal translation.

The little extras

Universities all compete to provide the best opportunities for translation students to add more feathers to their caps. For example, some have co-op programs in which students complete three semester-long work placements. By the time they graduate, these students already have 12 months of real-world translation experience, as well as relationships with professionals in the field.

Some universities even have study abroad programs. What could be more exciting for a future language professional than spending a semester improving one of their working languages in London, Paris or some other great city?

Job prospects

To some people, just being bilingual is enough to become a translator. Then why bother going to school? Well, although it’s not impossible to jump right into the workforce, it is risky. An education in translation goes beyond the study of languages, and many employers will not even consider candidates without formal training. Plus, to earn the title of certified translator—which gives job seekers a real edge—it’s better to have a degree under your belt.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: a trustworthy translation company will only hire applicants with the proper academic credentials. In other words, you can’t just pick up a pen, so to speak, and become a translator. For employers, a degree or certificate in translation is an additional guarantee of quality, so it is the best way to get your foot in the door.