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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, concrete tasks. You then apply these principles to the translation of texts in selected areas of economics, law, science and technology. This practical approach allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical and methodological background. At the same time, you become a competent user of the latest translation technology tools (CAT). The programme therefore gives you the chance to acquire the academic, practical and technical competences you will need in your future career. Graduates are entitled to practise as professional translators.

The research-based joint modules form part of the MA for all specialisations. In the joint 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 service or industrial 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 certain 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 the language service industry (as revisors, proofreaders, terminologists or project managers, for example). An MA degree in Professional Translation gives you the chance to enter these professions directly.


In the MA programme, 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 A + C + C (two language versions). A maximum number of four language versions is possible. The results you achieve in the professional aptitude tests will determine which language is classified as your A language and whether your foreign languages are classified as B (active) or C (passive). One of the languages you offer must be German.

The table below gives you an overview of the languages and language combinations we currently cover in the specialisation in Professional Translation. 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:

  • strong written communication skills in diverse contexts, a quick understanding and good powers of concentration; they are creative in their approach to problem-solving, intellectually curious, able to deal with criticism and to cope with pressure;
  • a good general education, a thorough knowledge of economic, social, political and cultural conditions in the cultural areas of their chosen languages; 
  • an outstanding command of their native language and at least two foreign languages.

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 or C languages) 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 is ACC (native language plus two passive foreign languages). You may register 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 2019
Deadline for applications 1 15 May 2018
Professional aptitude test 1 25 June - 6 July 2018
Language test 1 25 June - 6 July 2018
Test of competence 1 18 August 2018
Deadline for applications 2 15 August 2018
Professional aptitude test 2 1 - 6 October 2018
Language test 2 1 - 6 October 2018
Test of competence 2 10 November 2018

Subject to change.