Terminologist  What They Do

Insider Info

dotTerminologists conduct research required to translate and interpret technical, professional and scientific vocabulary and material. "Terms" used in one language do not translate easily into another language. Or they could mean something entirely different in another language.

dotTerminologists study journals, publications and other sources to ensure that correct terminology is used when translating across languages. They identify changes, variations and developments. They organize terminological data into bilingual or multilingual glossaries, card indexes or other databases.

Terminologists advise translators, interpreters and editors on questions related to terminology.

dotTerminologists use computers a lot. Most of the research and recording is done on a computer. Terminologists also attend meetings and might serve on committees and boards.

dotTerminologists are employed by private translation and interpreting agencies, government, large private corporations and international organizations. They may work for the media. Or they may be self-employed.

Hans Fisher is a self-employed translator and terminologist. He estimates that 85 percent of terminologists in the U.S. are self-employed.

Terminologists often specialize in a specific field, such as law, medicine, literature or business.

dotAccording to Fisher, a person with mobility challenges would have little or no problems working as a terminologist or translator. A person with severe visual impairment might not be able to manage this type of work. But someone with a hearing impairment could manage by using e-mail, faxes or other non-auditory means of communication.

dotIn the U.S., translators are more likely to perform terminologist functions along with their other job responsibilities. "It is necessary for every translator to be concerned with terminology, if he or she is serious about maintaining professional-level quality," says Fisher.

"This is absolutely essential when repeated jobs in the same field are received from the same client. The translated terminology must be consistent."

At a Glance

Make sure you have the right word

  • A lot of terminologists are self-employed
  • You can specialize in a specific field, such as law, medicine, literature or business
  • Studying linguistics in university will serve you well


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Interpreters and Translators