Many beginning translators often ask what kind of education they need in order to be considered good translators. They reason that other professions often judge a person's skills by how long they have been in school and how many letters come after their name. However, translators are not lawyers, doctors, or accountants, and don't have to jump through the same kind of hoops to be considered professionals in their industry and because of that, master's degrees in Spanish translation aren't always necessary.
A Translator's Education
So if translators don't need a master's degree in Spanish translation to be good translators, what do they need? Translators learn by doing and the more they translate, the better they become. Translators must have good language skills in all the languages they will be using. However, this doesn't necessarily mean having a degree. Many translators I know have no formal translation education, but are very skilled translators nonetheless because they have a whole lot of experience and are able to market that to prospective clients.
Also, clients are not usually going to care what kind of degree you have, but more importantly are going to want to be aware of the experience you have in dealing with the subject matter of the translation. You could have a master's degree in Spanish translation but still not know anything on how to translate patent applications for a hydro-electric dam, for example.
On the other hand, there are instances when a degree will be helpful to translators. Sometimes when translators don't have that experience necessary for convincing clients, they can show that they do have some experience through schoolwork they have done in that particular field. For example, say you studied finance in college and you want to become a translator. Well, the best thing to do is use your finance background that you gained at college to solicit prospective clients in need of financial translations.
So, rather than pursuing an actual degree in Spanish translation, it makes more sense to earn degrees in other fields or industries, that way translators can be more specialized and more marketable to clients.
Is there ever a time when a master's degree in Spanish translation could be useful? Short answer: yes. There are various educational programs that offer degrees in translation and they can be useful in obtaining translation work. Usually, however, these types of degrees are better for obtaining jobs as in-house translators because these types of employers want to know that you understand certain aspects of the translation industry that are usually taught in school. However, if you are interested in becoming a freelance translator, a master's degree is less desirable than actual translation experience.
Clint Tustison is a Spanish <-> English translator interested in helping businesses and translators better understand the translation industry. If you're interested in how to improve your translation business or your relationship with translation companies, check out his website at http://www.spanish-translation-help.com .