The Road to Terminology

One of the most common questions among terminology or translation students – or recent graduates – who are trying to figure out what they want to do in the future is: “How do you get a job working as a terminologist?” Most of these people know they want to do terminology and would like the variety and challenges that terminology offers, but aren’t exactly sure how to go about it. However, before getting a job, one needs to get sure whether has obtained all required skills as a terminologist or not.

Terminology Coordination Unit offers a series of interviews with prominent terminologists in which you can find many suggestions and recommendations to follow. These interviews are conducted by terminology trainees and published in two volumes (so far). According to “the objective of this initiative is to bring the terminology work in the spotlight and raise awareness about its importance in both monolingual and multilingual communication”.

I have collected 14 recommendations given by these prominent terminologists that can be useful for recent graduates or even actual terminologists. One of the interesting aspects of all these suggestions is that almost all of them emphasize the role of training and multidimensional learning in the path of becoming a good terminologist (See also Wise Words: Insights from successful terminologists (Part I) and Wise Words: Insights from successful terminologists (Part II).

Interdisciplinary knowledge, critical thinking, profound knowledge of a specialized field, fundamental skills in terminology management, proficient knowledge of languages and updating the knowledge through professional communications and reading are among the most recommended skills.

Silvia Bernardini

I believe it will be important for future terminologists to combine a firm grasp of the theories and principles of the discipline with computational resources and methods borrowed from neighbouring research fields (such as computational linguistics, machine learning and distributional semantics). In this way it will be possible to maintain the high standards associated with a manual activity and combine them with the faster turnarounds characteristic of semi-automatic, streamlined processes.

Gerhard Budin I would say that it comes down to few major things:

  • be flexible
  • be open to innovation (tools, methods, data, etc.)
  • network with others in the same profession as well as with others in your professional environments (incl. the social web)
  • develop your personal professional profile, often in combination with other specialised domain-specific or generic skills and make it visible to the world
  • stay in touch with universities and research activities
María Teresa Cabré

From my experience, the main piece of advice that I can give is to get sound training, with both a theoretical and a practical basis. Also, they should not be satisfied with any technical training that does not allow them to distinguish between different views, nor to become autonomous, critical professionals.

María Rosa Castro Prieto

I think that, although terminologist as a profession could be a reality, there is no real demand on the labour market as such. However, I do think that having an excellent skill in terminology management does add value to language professionals’ CVs whether working in languages from a monolingual or a multilingual perspective.

Marcin Feder

From an EP-centred perspective I can say that the most sought-after languages here are the six biggest ones, i.e. English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Polish. This is not to say that if one learns these five foreign languages one will be immediately successful in the world of interpreting. There are many other factors that come into play. From my personal experience and having sat on numerous test juries I can say that to become a successful interpreter one needs to be very persistent as the road that takes us there is usually long and winding and on that rather longish trip one must also “become of age”, so to say. What I mean is that if you are a mature person, not necessarily in terms of age, you are able to handle difficult and stressful situations much better. And trust me, interpreting is very much about that. Additionally although the majority of interpreters train as linguists, I believe that a profound knowledge of a specialised field (f. ex. a formal degree) is a major asset in the profession.

María Isabel Fijo León

I would advise them to be conscious of the contribution terminology can make to society and to be aware of its needs and demands; to keep studying; to read a lot and reflect on terminology even more because, as I have said before, it does not seem possible to me to create quality terminological management applications without a deep knowledge of this discipline’s foundations and principles.

Hendrik J. Kockaert

It is always beneficial to practice terminology on the field. Referring to my first experience in Luxembourg, I ealize how important practical hands-on experience is. Such a practical experience should of course be based on a sound basis, such as terminology courses offered by universities, the ECQA-CTM (Certified Terminology Members) courses, and good handbooks, such as the new Handbook of Terminology (2015), and edited by myself and Frieda Steurs.

Katia Peruzzo

In my own experience, what I have found most surprising is that students need plenty of time to get into the habit of thinking in terms of abstract representations, of distinguishing between the meaning that underlies a linguistic expression and the linguistic expression itself. Although nowadays in terminology concepts are not considered of the utmost importance – as they were at the beginning of modern terminology in the 1970s – and it is virtually impossible to draw a clear-cut line between concepts and terms, when you look for the most appropriate translation equivalent it is almost always necessary to take a step back from the linguistic form and try to deeply understand the meaning or the single semantic features of a term. While this is a routine activity for a professional translator or terminographer, for a student it may require relatively long training and plenty of exercise.

Donatella Pulitano

There are sometimes “prejudices” about Terminology and the teachers’ role is to show students that there are close ties but not exclusive between terminology and translation: terminology is essential to any professional communication and it is not limited to an ancillary role for the translation.

Miguel Sánchez Ibáñez

My advice is very simple: never give up. Even if study programmes for fields in which terminology plays a central role are scarce, even if terminologist posts are difficult to come by, even if our tasks as language professionals are sometimes blurry and ill‑defined, we must be tenacious, consistent and always willing to learn and to update our professional skills. I am only a young terminologist who has just started his career, and I fear that my relatively limited experience means I am not the best person to give advice on anything, but I have always known that terminology is my passion, despite the difficulties I have come across along the way, and I am quite happy with the path I have followed so far. I always try to remember that I have a long way to go, but I do know what I ultimately want to become: an experienced, skilled terminologist who is able to adapt to different working contexts and is always willing to learn and improve. I think that if aspiring terminologists take all these factors into account, at least they will have found a promising starting point!

Klaus-Dirk Schmitz

Even if translators are very often under time pressure, they should do terminology work following the concept-oriented approach. Otherwise the terminological data will be unsystematic and therefore unusable over the time. Concept orientation does not mean that translators have to elaborate concept systems and have to supply every terminological entry with a definition; it requires (only) that all terminological information belonging to one concept should also be managed in one terminological entry. Synonyms should be stored in the same entry, homonyms in different entries. And with a good terminology management system and a good preparation of terminology work, translator can easily create entries that contain more than two terms. Before a translation job starts, an entry template can be filled with default values for the subject field, the client, the term status, and if not done automatically with the name of the editor and the date. During the translation process, it is only necessary to add the source language and the target language term to create a valid terminological entry.

 Frieda Steurs

Different tracks can be used to pursue a career in terminology. From a multilingual point of view, starting with a Master’s in translation and specialising in translation technology and advanced human language technology is definitely a good choice. However, terminology can be approached from different angles (it is definitely interdisciplinary), and academics with a background in other sciences can definitely also work in terminology research. In any case, anyone working with terminology and trying to build terminology collections needs good language skills, and especially a keen interest in new trends in society, with an open mind on new workflow procedures.

Kostas Valeontis

In my opinion, in order to become a reliable terminologist, a person mainly should love knowledge and terminology as well as have a proficient knowledge of languages. She/he will have to study a specific subject field and become specialist in it. They should study well both theory and application of terminology (all) relevant ISO/TC 37 standards starting from ISO 1087 and ISO 704. Even if this person is a linguist, he/she should digest the terminological concepts and methods, which are not quite the same as the linguistic ones. Be a good user of computer programs and other applications used in terminology today (word processing programs, terminological databases, etc.) is another requisite.

Maria Teresa Zanola

Apart from the evidence of having advanced linguistic and textual competences, a terminologist must know how to manage terminology: how to search and collect terms, how to store and retrieve them, how to manage monolingual and multilingual terminology and terminology projects. Moreover, a terminologist must know terminology strategies for business processes, if he/she works in companies which require translation, and be conscious of the relevance of terminological choices in institutional communication as well as in marketing needs.


[1] “Why is terminology your passion?” (2014). A collection of interviews with prominent terminologists. Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. ISBN 978-92-823-5369-1

[2] “Why is terminology your passion?” (2015). The second collection of interviews with prominent terminologists. Terminology Coordination Unit of the EuropeanParliament. ISBN 978-92-823-5369-1

[3] Brenes, Patricia (2016). Wise Words: Insights from successful terminologists (Part I). In My Own Terms. Blog post. Available at: 

[4] Brenes, Patricia (2016). Wise Words: Insights from successful terminologists (Part II). In My Own Terms. Blog post. Available at:

Author: BesharatFathi

Terminologist, researcher, learner, teacher,...

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