As many of you will know, a large part of my blog is dedicated to posts by guest writers reviewing their MA or MSc in translation or translation and interpreting. Budding translators often need help deciding which MA course to take and so they come here to read about previous students’ experiences and ask for advice.
Colleagues who haven’t followed the MA route but want to get qualified often wonder (in my circle at least) whether they should take the DipTrans, ITI or ATA exams. And some who have studied an MA feel they need to go a step further and take one of these exams as well. Consequently, knowing which of these four qualifications is more likely to get them translation work would be helpful. Hence the reason for this survey.
Given that I only received 77 responses (one was void as it was an exact duplicate of the previous submission), the results are obviously limited in their scope. However, I hope they will still give people some food for thought when considering the next phase in their translation career.
The survey is further limited because it only focuses on four qualifications and, as some respondents pointed out, there are many others out there, especially in countries other than the UK and the US. This limitation was, however, highlighted in the instructions (“The aim of this survey is to gauge opinion on four main qualifications in the translation profession”) and, given that I’m not a university researcher, am not aware of all available qualifications, and run this blog in my spare time, I feel it is justified.
If there is further interest in this topic, I suggest colleagues conduct similar surveys on the more typical qualifications in their countries/fields/languages/etc.
As explained in Part 1 of these results, the survey initially received 58 responses (after eliminating the duplicate). Given that most of the world has been in lockdown recently and many colleagues have seen a drop in their workload, I reopened the survey gaining a further 19 responses. This additional 33% has not had a significant impact on the distribution in the pie charts and graphs. Nevertheless, I’ve included the new ones in this post so you can compare them with those in Part 1 if you wish.
In this post we’ll start exploring the results in more detail and look at some comments made in the survey.
As we saw last time, becoming a qualified member of the ITI is the most popular option out of the four qualifications featured in the survey. And, interestingly, 19 out of the 22 respondents who are already MITIs are not interested in obtaining the other qualifications mentioned.
Here are some of their reasons for preferring the ITI exam route:
“The requirements and level of translation required for MITI are stringent enough to ensure a good level of skill … I’ve had people ask if I am MITI much more than any of the others.”
“This qualification is peer-reviewed.”
“It requires the translator to have worked in the industry for at least 3 years, which is not a requirement of an MA/MSc.”
“The ITI exam offers a real-world assessment, rather than a classroom-style assessment.”
“More difficult to achieve, real-world conditions for the test, more specialised.”
“Qualified MITI also allows for ISO approval.”
“I like that the MITI exam is a post-experience exam. you can’t sit it until you have a few years’ experience. And I like that it is ‘real world’, sat in your normal work environment. And that it is not marked as an academic exam, that one serious error can be enough to fail it.” (Agency owner)
Continuing the focus on the ITI exam, nine respondents who are not MITI qualified think this qualification is better than the other three.
The only respondent with the DipTrans who chose the MITI option here reiterates a point made by several others: “I think MITI is well regarded as the test recreates professional conditions.”
Some of the observations made by the eight respondents with an MA who think the MITI is better are as follows:
“Working in the UK it seems to be the mark of a qualified translator.”
“Shows post-MA level of experience.”
“Because you can take it from home, use proper resources like for a normal translation, choose a specialism and demonstrate your expertise/abilities in a specialism.”
“I think MITI or MCIL show that you have not just studied translation, you are a practising professional with several years of vetted experience. (I am in the UK and therefore have not considered ATA certification as important).”
“While an MA or MSc is seen as desirable by many, simply having a degree does not guarantee that the individual is a good translator. The DipTrans also falls into this category as it is only based on the exam. The best option is MITI status as translators need a proven track record of delivering translation or interpreting services, backed up by references and an assessment.”
Unlike in the first half of this survey, ATA certification was not rated last. Four respondents with no qualifications thought ATA was the best to have and three of these indicated that they wanted to become ATA certified.
Out of the four respondents who have only taken the ATA exam out of the four possibilities, three rated ATA the highest. Their reasons for their responses primarily focus on location (i.e. they are US-based translators) and not being aware of the ITI and DipTrans exams—“I’m US-based and have not heard of the other qualifications (except for MA)”—although other aspects are:
“Might be a better option for acquiring translation-related assignments.”
“I have the feeling that a certification from an international organism gives the translator more credibility and prestige than an MA, which is nowadays a much more common degree.”
“ATA certification is accepted globally and without a hint of hesitation.”
Six of the respondents with an MA feel that the ATA certification is the best.
“The government and agencies seem to value it higher than anything else.”
“It is the most taught/recommended qualification at my University.”
As we can see from the above pie chart, 39% chose MA/MSc to answer the question. This percentage included seven out of the nine respondents with both an MA and MITI, all three with the DipTrans and an MA, and both with an MA and ATA certification.
“An MA in translation attests several years of study. A certification like the ATA’s own, might be rigorous, but it is just the result of a test or the assessment of certain documents.”
“Don’t know enough about DipTrans or MITI to judge those, but of the two qualifications I have, I feel like the MA means more, especially to direct clients.”
“A Master’s is a big commitment. It involves hands-on translation plus researching and writing a dissertation. It makes you aware of the process and of attitudes to translation.”
Five out of the nine who only have the DipTrans thought MA/MSc was a better qualification.
“Everybody understands what an MA is. DipTrans may not be known by people outside the UK.”
“MAs involve actual learning on a scientific basis, and you get feedback all the time, whereas a certification/diploma is just an exam in which you have no idea how your performance is going to be judged.”
Around 39% of respondents with only an MA out of the four qualifications surveyed believe it is better than the other three. Some of the reasons they give are as follows:
“Minimum requirement to work with good agencies also a qualification which is better known to potential clients than MITI.”
“An MA or MSc is better to begin with because it teaches about the translation process. MITI is for when you are already experienced and which to prove this.”
“If your profile/CV says you have an MA/MSc, this is readily recognised by (potential) clients who are not in the language industry themselves. Everyone knows what an ‘MA/MSc’ is, but how many people outside of the translation bubble know what ‘MITI’ or ‘DipTrans’ or ‘ATA’ are?”
“Thorough grounding in all aspects of translation: CAT tools, invoicing, quoting, references, collegiality, networking.”
“Covers a wider variety and a series of different tests including commentaries and theories ensuring that future translators are fully aware of the whole translation process and their role as a translator/writer.”
Only one out of the 11 respondents with none of the four qualifications thinks that the MA is the best. And no one with only ATA certification rates MA/MSc the highest.
After extending the survey and receiving more responses, the DipTrans has now dropped to last place in the first question, swapping positions with ATA certification. Just a third of respondents with only the DipTrans out of the four qualifications thought it was the best.
“Less expensive than a masters, yet a very highly regarded qualification.”
“DipTrans requires you to produce an accurate translation within a set time, meaning you have to have all the right skills there and then to prove your professional standard.”
Over 50% of respondents with none of the four surveyed qualifications believe the DipTrans is the best, with five of these six also wanting to gain this qualification.
“I’ve seen the IoLET DipTrans described as the ‘gold standard’. It certainly seems to be the toughest.”
“DipTrans looks more specific and/or practical than MA/Msc in Translation.”
In Part 3 of the results, we’ll look at the comments for the other three questions: Which of the four qualifications are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).