Results of the Translation Qualifications Survey (Part 3)

This is the third and penultimate part of the results of the translation qualifications survey, which focused on the DipTrans, MA/MSc, MITI exam and ATA certification.

In Part 1, we looked at the graphs and pie charts resulting from the survey. However, as I decided to reopen the survey to gain more responses, you’ll find all the definitive graphs and pie charts in Part 2 and in this post.

In Part 2, we examined the results of the first survey questions in more detail as well as some of the comments made to explain respondents’ choices.

In this Part 3, we’ll look at the comments for the last three questions: Which of the four qualifications surveyed are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).

While the percentage distribution of the respondents is largely the same, extending the survey to the end of July 2020 has resulted in more clients (primarily agency owners) giving their views.

As we saw in Part 1, although most respondents say that the MA/MSc is the best qualification to have, they think the MITI qualification is the most highly regarded among translators of the four surveyed. Some of the reasons given for this choice are:

“If an agency has the choice between two candidates, one being AITI and the other one being MITI, they will go for MITI. This was confirmed recently when I helped a client of mine increase his translators base. He immediately said: I want people who are MITI.”

“I can only really comment from a UK perspective and unfortunately I don’t know a lot about the DipTrans qualification. I feel that the MITI qualification is seen as a mark of quality among translators, which is why those who have it tend to emphasise it on LinkedIn, in social media handles, etc.”

“I understand the test recreates professional conditions and also members can be listed on website.”

“You need to be rigorously tested to get into such memberships. It’s difficult.”

“I don’t really hear anyone talk about the others and this is a requirement for ‘certified’ translation.”

“As I’m UK based I have a bias but I think it and ATA are similar as they are exams from professional bodies.”

“I am not sure, but it’s the qualification I most see among my foreign colleagues.”

“It shows you have a certain level of experience.”

“Shows you follow the industry’s code of conduct and do regular CPD.”

“The most influential translators that I see all seem to have MITI status, which probably encourages others to reach for the same standard.”

Having a master’s degree was the second choice for this question. Besides typical responses that the degree is more in-depth, complete and commands more respect, other respondents say the following:

“Obviously, MAs are internationally recognized qualifications, whereas the other options are country-specific and not widely recognized even in their own countries. Of those, the ATA/MITI certifications are the least value, because you lose them as soon as you leave their respective associations.”

“I think people respect the time and dedication that goes into getting a university qualification.”

“Might open up more work opportunities beyond translation-related assignments (e.g. teaching posts).”

“Working translators are able to pass certification tests with native fluency while not knowing the underlying foundations of the profession, which can lead to error or ethical issues.”

Unlike in Part 1, the DipTrans has now dropped to the last position, swapping places with ATA certification, exactly as it did for the question “Which of the following do you think is better?” (see Part 2).

Reasons given for choosing the DipTrans are that it is harder to pass, more highly regarded and the most highly selective. For three respondents, a master’s degree and the DipTrans are on a par. An agency owner commented the following:

“I think the DipTrans has a better ‘marketing machine’ behind it than the ITI exam, even though I think the ITI exam marks to a higher standard.”

Besides respondents in the US feeling that ATA certification is more visible and familiar, other interesting comments for this third choice are:

“The ATA appears to be more widely recognised across the globe and the impression that I get from translation forums and groups is that many translators in the Americas and outside of Europe view this almost as a ‘gold standard’.”

“I see many translators bragging about this.”

“It is accreditation as a professional translator trained to do so.”

“It is very difficult to get this certification. Very. Difficult.”

“I know many colleagues who can’t find a job despite their academic background.”

“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.”

“I think that ATA certification is most known one to Japanese translators in Japan, while DipTrans and MITI are not familiar at all here in Japan.”

Moving on to the next question, the pie chart distribution has remained the same despite the extra responses in the survey extension.

Comments made about why the respondents chose MA/MSc include:

“It is often the first thing they ask me.”

“A relevant degree is always high on the list of desired qualifications.”

“Many agencies ask for some kind of qualification, but it doesn’t have to be an MA; this is just an easy benchmark to choose to distinguish between applicants.”

“Many agencies ask for it, while they don’t ask for other types of certifications, though this may just be my bias based on the market I generally look in (Spain).”

“Experience. I always get asked for my MA. Nobody ever asked me if I was a MITI or member of any other organisation.”

“I would say that agencies outside of the UK (but in the EU) aren’t necessarily aware of MITI / ATA / IOL certifications. Some are. But not all!”

“I am not sure all agencies know about the DipTrans, but they all know about MA or MSc.”

“MA/MSc in Translation might be most known qualification to Japanese agencies. However, in my opinion, most Japanese translation agencies don’t give much value on which qualifications translators have, as they often assess your translation skills first by asking to do free trials when they want to find the right people for their projects.”

“Most agencies ask for a degree in translation in order to fulfil ISO 17100 standards, but they are not always that bothered about memberships to organisations.”

“I’m also an agency owner and only employ translators with a BA or MA in translation unless they have an MITI with a lot of experience and speciality (usually this seems to be the case for more mature translators as many translation programs at unis weren’t available until the late 90s!)”

“MA Trans Studies is our preferred quality for graduate Project Managers.” (Agency owner)

Thoughts on agencies preferring qualified membership of the ITI are:

“I think the ITI is highly regarded and for an agency it is a quality sign. When I became MITI, the interesting agencies and offers started to come.”

“More accepted as a practical translation qualification, along with experience.”

“Certified quality seal, comes with the added element of annual CPD.”

“Some clients say they prefer MITI status.”

“Harder to become MITI, thus may be more valued.”

“I have found that agencies will recognise your experience if you hold this qualification.”

The DipTrans is thought to be the third most highly regarded of the four qualifications for the following reasons:

“I think the ‘big agencies’ tend to like the DipTrans, in part because I think the DipTrans exam has a better marketing operation behind it than the ITI exam does.” (agency owner)

“Some agencies ask specifically if you have the DipTrans, less so the other qualifications.”

“The DipTrans is so hard to pass that only professionally competent translators get it.”

Lastly, some positive observations on ATA certification, the least highly regarded option of the four, are:

“I have seen agencies with a preference for ATA-certified translators several times.” (respondent’s clients are mostly in the US)

“It’s a more focused credential.”

Again, this seems to depend on where the translator is based: “Because it is a US-granted certification.”

Finally, as in Part 1 of these results, most respondents believe direct clients regard an MA or MSc more highly, essentially because they are familiar with master’s degrees but not with translation-specific qualifications.

“Direct clients may not have insight into the value of language industry qualifications, whereas a university degree is easily recognisable and accepted.”

“They are much more likely to be aware of traditional academic qualifications and many will likely view these as essential qualifications for professional translators and interpreters, in the same way that they would expect lawyers and other professionals to have academic qualifications.”

“Client won’t be able to tell the differences. However, it is natural that people consider academic qualification = better education = professionally trained.”

“Shows a level of commitment.”

As before, ATA certification has been chosen as the second qualification respondents think direct clients prefer. And again, the main reason seems to be that it is better understood in the US.

“Clients tend to like the designation ‘certified’ in the States.”

“A certification from a professional organization can help you show your clients your professionalism and value.”

“It is a universal standard which guarantees client satisfaction beginning at that level.”

“Direct clients are rarely informed of the specificities of our profession and often mistake an ATA certification (or a certification from any other translation associations) for a professional bar association membership, which is very prestigious for any professional.”

“Simply because the ATA is bigger and probably more recognisable globally than ITI.”

In Part 1 of these results, MITI status was rated last and the DipTrans third for this question. After the survey extension, however, these positions have been reversed. Most respondents choosing the DipTrans for this option did not provide an explanation of their views or are unsure: “Because the meaning is more transparent perhaps?”

Some positive thoughts on qualified membership of the ITI are:

“Direct clients might have had more contact with ITI in conferences, previous clients, etc.”

“I think direct clients like to see evidence of a professional qualification, although they need some explanation about the nature of it.”

“I think it implies you have gained experience and are not a ‘rookie’ translator.”

In the fourth and final part of these results we’ll look at some valuable comments that I haven’t managed to slot into any of the above answers to the survey questions as they are more wide-ranging. We’ll also try to draw some conclusions regarding these qualifications for the profession going forward.

Explore this blog by starting with the categories page., which includes a section on all the surveys I’ve run. 

3 thoughts on “Results of the Translation Qualifications Survey (Part 3)

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