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Specialisation in Professional Translation

Building bridges between languages and cultures

“In my everyday professional life, I have to be able to justify linguistic decisions to both lay people and fellow-experts. The knowledge and expertise I gained during my studies really help me to do this.”

Anina Traub, graduate

“I began working in a language agency immediately after graduating. My Master’s degree gave me a solid foundation and confidence in my knowledge and skills – just what I needed at the start of my professional career.”

Marina Siedl, graduate

“My MA degree was my entrée to the world of translation, and it later opened the doors to a career in tertiary level teaching. I would never have fulfilled this dream if I hadn’t completed the Master’s programme.”

Yves-Manuel Méan, graduate


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. The deadline for choosing the profile is 31 October.

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 Barrier-free 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
Russian German, English


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. 

Admission requirements

In order to be admitted to the MA in Applied Linguistics, you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree, preferably in modern languages or media/communication studies, or an equivalent tertiary level qualification. You are also required to pass a professional aptitude test to demonstrate your practical skills. Candidates with a degree in an unrelated subject area take an additional test of competence.

Candidates for the specialisation in Professional Translation also have to provide evidence of English language competence (at least C1 level) and, in the case of non-native speakers of German, of German language competence (at least C2 level). This evidence can be in the form of language certificates, study records, job references, etc. Candidates who are unable to provide evidence of this kind will be required to take a written language test (PDF 41,7 KB) at the ZHAW.

Professional aptitude test

In the professional aptitude test for the specialisation in Professional Translation, candidates translate a general language text from their chosen foreign languages (B and/or C language) into their native language (A language) and, if applicable, from their native language (A language) into their active foreign language (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.

Test of competence

If you have a degree in a subject area unrelated to modern languages or media/communication studies, you are 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.

Dates and deadlines

Programme start: Spring semester 2020
Deadline for applications 15 May 2019
Professional aptitude test 24 June – 5 July 2019
Professional aptitude test (resit date) 30 September – 5 October 2019
Language test 24 June – 5 July 2019
Language test (resit date) 30 September – 5 October 2019
Test of competence 17 August 2019
Test of competence (resit date) 9 November 2019

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.