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Specialisation in Professional Translation

Building bridges between languages and cultures


In the specialisation in Professional Translation, you acquire a thorough knowledge of the theories and practical methods of translation by completing realistic tasks. You then apply these principles to the translation of texts in selected areas of business, law, science and technology, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical background. At the same time, you become a competent user of the latest translation technology (CAT) tools. It is also possible in this specialisation to focus on barrier-free communication, audiovisual translation or translation management. The programme gives you the chance to acquire the academic, technical and professional competences you will need in your future career. Graduates are entitled to practise as professional translators.

The research-based core modules form part of the MA for all specialisations. In the core modules, you learn to reflect critically and constructively on professional practice. The modules investigate principles and methods of applied linguistics. In plenary lectures and small groups of students from the different specialisations, you study central issues relating to applied linguistics in professional practice and you learn how to assess communication output competently.

Career opportunities

Professional translators work as freelancers or are employed as in-house translators. Their clients or employers may be companies in the private sector, government authorities and public services, national and international organisations, trade unions or professional associations. Your professional success as a translator may depend on factors such as your language combination, the economic situation, your area of specialisation, level of professionalism, flexibility and own initiative. Fluctuating demand may mean that working hours and contracts vary.

Qualified translators also have good career opportunities in various areas of the language service industry (for example revision, editing, terminology, project management, barrier-free communication or audiovisual translation). An MA degree in Professional Translation gives you the chance to enter these professions directly.

Languages and profiles

Before beginning your studies, you will choose one of the three profiles within the specialisation in Professional Translation.

Your choice of profile determines the number of languages that you study in the programme.

If you choose the Specialised Translation profile, you study at least three languages: your native or primary language (A language) and at least two foreign languages, which are classified as either 'active' (B) or 'passive' (C) languages. You translate out of your B and C languages into your A language and out of your A language into your B language. The minimum language combination is ACC (two language versions). A maximum number of four language versions is possible. One of the languages you study must be German.

If you choose the Translation Management or the Accessible Communication / Audiovisual Translation profile, you are expected to study two languages: your native or primary language (A language) as well as a passive foreign language (C language). One of the languages you study must be German or English.

The results you achieve in the professional aptitude tests will determine which of your languages is classified as A, B and/or C.

The table below gives you an overview of the study languages and language combinations currently on offer. The MA programme director reserves the right to cancel a language version if there are not enough students enrolled.

A language B or C languages C language only
German French, Italian, English, Spanish Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Russian
French German, Italian, English, Spanish  
Italian German, French, English Spanish
English German, French, Italian, Spanish  
Spanish German, English, French  


Personal qualities

Successful candidates have:

Preparing for your studies

Before you begin your studies, we recommend you to do an internship in translation or the language service industry, preferably abroad in a country where one of your foreign languages is spoken. This will give you the chance to gain useful professional experience and to establish contacts, while improving your language skills and enhancing your cultural knowledge. If you complete a translation internship, this can be recognised in the form of ECTS credits in your third semester. 

Formal conditions of admission

Candidates must fulfil the following formal conditions in order to be admitted to the programme:

  1. Bachelor's degree
    You need to have a recognised Bachelor's degree or an equivalent tertiary level qualification in translation or applied languages. If you have a degree in an unrelated subject area, you will be required to take an additional test of competence.
  2. Professional aptitude test
    The written professional aptitude test for the specialisation in Professional Translation is designed to assess your practical skills. In the test, you translate a general language text from your chosen foreign languages (B and/or C language) into your native language (A language) and, if applicable, from your native language (A language) into one or several active foreign languages (B language). The minimum language combination for the Specialised Translation profile is ACC (native language plus two passive foreign languages). For the Translation Management and the Barrier-free Communication/Audiovisual Translation profiles, the minimum language combination is AC (native language plus one passive foreign language). You may register for a maximum of two B languages and four C languages for the professional aptitude test.
    Factsheet professional aptitude test (in German)
    Sample exams to prepare for the professional aptitude test (in German)
  3. Test of competence
    If you have a degree in an unrelated subject area, you will be required to take a test in applied linguistics and in translation studies. Depending on the degree you hold, you may be exempt from parts of this test. After the deadline for applications, you will receive a reading list to help you prepare.
    Factsheet test of competence (in German)
  4. Language competences (English/German)
    In order to be admitted to the programme, you must have English language competence of at least C1 level and, in the case of non-native speakers of German, German language competence of at least C2 level. You will have to provide evidence in the form of language certificates, study records, job references, etc. If you are unable to provide evidence of this kind, you will be required to take a written language test(PDF 40,8 KB) (in German) at the ZHAW.

Individuals who have been excluded from a Master’s degree programme at other universities that cover equivalent content can no longer be admitted to the corresponding specialisation at the ZHAW.

Dates and deadlines

  Programme start: Spring semester 2024
Deadline for applications 15 May 2023
Professional aptitude test 26 June – 7 July 2023
Professional aptitude test (resit date) 18 – 29 September 2023
Language test 11 September 2023
Language test (resit date) 4 November 2023

Subject to change.


The MA in Applied Linguistics specialisation in Professional Translation received unconditional accreditation from the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (precursor of SERI) in 2012.