Last week, I got an email from New York University containing a badge to promote the fact that I completed the NYU School of Continuing Professional Studies’ certificate program in German to English translation. It’s been several years since I completed this online program and I haven’t thought about it for a long time, but this was a nice reminder about how I got started as a translator.

NYU badge

I discovered the NYU SCPS certificate program while I lived in Germany on my husband’s USAF orders, making the most of my journalism degree by working as a freelance reporter for German and American publications. At the time, I began thinking that as much as I loved journalism, it simply wasn’t a good fit for someone with the transient lifestyle of a military spouse. Languages had always been my passion and I had a natural talent for translating and writing, so shifting my freelance work from reporting to translating was not just a smart but also a natural choice.

I enrolled in NYU’s certificate program shortly thereafter. It was a simple process. The only requirement was that I take an entrance qualification test: a translation of a short paragraph of about 300 words if I remember correctly. I received the test via email, translated it at home and sent it back. I believe there was a time limit from the time I received it until I had to send it back, but it’s been so long, I’m not 100% sure about this detail. The entire program is completely online – you participate in a discussion forum on a weekly basis and complete your translation assignments at home and then email them to your instructor. I took one course per semester, which left me enough free time to focus on my freelance journalism work as well as the fun that comes with living in Europe (sidewalk cafes! leisurely strolls through pedestrian zones in inner cities! travel!).

To earn the certificate, I had to complete 6 courses, some of which were required and some of which I could pick from a small selection. I ended up taking Intro to Translation, Translation of Products and Services, Legal Translation, Medical Translation, Patent Translation and Commercial Translation. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about specializing in a certain area yet, and I wanted a well-rounded foundation.

Overall, I found the program rather easy. The translation assignments, for the most part, were a piece of cake. I wouldn’t say I didn’t learn anything, though. For one thing, the exposure to a variety of fields helped me find the area that I really wanted to concentrate on. I also learned special terminology for fields such as legal and patent translation. Most of all, however, I got confirmation that I deserve to call myself a translator, and I feel validated in my profession of choice. If you are starting out as a translator coming from another field, I would highly recommend this NYU program as a stepping stone on your way to becoming a professional, high-end translator. At a fraction of the cost of a master’s degree in translation, it offers a solid basis for getting started in this profession.

About the author - Marion Rhodes


  • Trina

    September 6, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Hi there! So would you say that companies will take someone with just the NYU certificate and not a Masters (especially if you have background experience and testimonials)? Do you think it’s well recognized in the translation community?

  • germanxl8or

    September 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    There is no universal answer here. It depends on your overall package. For people who come into the translation industry from non-traditional backgrounds, the NYU certificate is a valuable credential that shows you can, indeed, translate. In some fields, a degree in a highly specialized subject such as chemistry plus a translation certificate may be more valuable than an MA in translation.

    I don’t have a master’s degree myself, and the NYU certificate has come in handy when potential clients (mostly agencies) have asked for translation credentials. I would imagine that the ATA Certificate would be equally, if not even more, beneficial for that purpose (something that’s still on my to-do list). By presenting my NYU certificate, I’ve occasionally been able to skip sample translations that were required for translators without translation credentials. Again, this is talking about agencies.

    If you are interested in in-house employment, I’m afraid I am not qualified to provide information, as I’ve always worked as a freelancer. But in that area, I can tell you that in the absence of a translation degree and my ATA certificate, my NYU credential has served me well.

  • Laura

    March 31, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Wonderful article! I was also very interested to hear of your experience with NYU’s translation program, as I have been researching different translation/interpreting programs, including the one at the University of Toronto. Have you taken any classes with UT? NYU and UT were the ones that seemed to hover around the top of the list and I was curious to know about both so I am glad to hear of your positive experience with NYU.

  • Marion Rhodes

    March 31, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Glad to hear you found my article helpful, Laura. I’m afraid I know nothing about UT’s program. Maybe someone else will be able to comment on that. Good luck to you!

  • Laura

    March 31, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    No worries – and thank you!

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