Where Could I Work?

In large organisations, a terminology professional can carry out various jobs such as terminology project manager, terminologist, computational linguist, translator or localization expert.

Terminology work and terminology management are a prerequisite for specialised/technical communication, translation of specialized texts and smooth knowledge transfer.

Terminology work is an interdisciplinary activity, which involves tasks from a variety of fields such as linguistics, informatics, cognitive science, documentation and knowledge management, which are carried out in a multilingual and highly-specialised environment. In order to be eligible for the multifaceted job profile of a terminologist, a professional needs to possess specific skills, competences and knowledge.

Tasks Description

Before focusing on the Professional Profile of a terminologist, here is a summary of the typical tasks carried out nowadays by a terminologist:

  • Analyse terminology needs of the specific environment or target users
  • Terminology planning activity (analyse terminology needs of companies and design/implement an efficient terminology management workflow/strategy)
  • Terminology work (write definitions, coin new terms, define concepts)
  • Develop mono- or multilingual terminology databases
  • Communication with subject-matter experts (to determine the appropriate terms for concepts)
  • Analyse and test terminology software available on the market
  • Prepare and manage terminology collections (terminology databases such as glossary, vocabulary, nomenclature, term list, etc.)
  • Set up a termbase and data structure compliant with industry standards
  • Terminology database management (administer and maintain termbases)
  • Design and implement terminology management systems
  • Give training, consultation and support on terminology work
  • Organise and lead a terminology team

Skills Description

Managing all these different tasks in the field of terminology requires skills in the four broad competency areas: linguistics, IT, communication and management. The key skills required from a professional terminologist can be summarised as the following:

Terminology and Language Skills:

  • Advanced knowledge of the principles of terminology (theory and practice)
  • Knowledge of linguistic principles
  • Competence in field-specific languages
  • Excellent language competence in mother-tongue
  • Proficiency in at least one language in addition to the native language
  • Linguistic creativity and highly developed feel for languages
  • Research competences and ability to identify essential information
  • Management competence of terminology collections
  • Competence of knowledge management (KM)

Management and Communication Skills:

  • Project management competence
  • Intercultural competence
  • Ability to plan and manage processes and projects
  • Ability for teamwork and networking
  • Knowledge-transfer and teaching skills
  • Competences in using media technologies
  • Competence to liaise with external experts
  • Knowledge about basic legal aspects, terminology standards and copyright

Technical Skills:

  • Mastery of electronic tools for terminology management and their interfaces with other applications
  • Basic knowledge of information technology and documentation
  • Tools expertise (ability to evaluate relevant software, such as: Terminology Management Systems, Computer Assisted Translation, Machine Translation, TMS interfaces to other applications, Term Extraction tools, and related tools such as Concordancing Software)
  • Proficiency in the use of terminology databases
  • Basic knowledge of mark-up language
  • Mastery of different browsers and defining efficient research criteria (search operators, regular expressions)

Soft Skills:

  • Systematic work approach
  • Abstract thinking skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Power of persuasion and argumentative ability
  • Negotiation skills
  • Multitasking
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • Social competences
  • Inter and intracultural thinking

National and International Bodies

  • European Parliament, Directorate-General for Translation
  • European Commission, Directorate-General for Translation
  • Council of the European Union
  • Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union
  • Court of Justice of the European Union
  • European Central Bank
  • European Investment Bank
  • United Nations (UN), Terminology Unit
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Translation Operations Unit
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Language, Conference and Publishing Services Department
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Terminology Office
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Terminology Unit
  • Travaux publics et Services gouvernementaux Canada, Bureau de la traduction
  • Chancellerie fédérale (Suisse), Services linguistiques centraux
  • Ministère de la culture et de la communication (France), Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • FIFA

Working for the EU as a staff translator


The procedure for recruitment to most European Union institutions is through an open competition organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). The only way to take part in a competition is to apply electronicallu cvia the EPSO website: eu-careers.eu

For jobs at the European Central Bank and the Translation Centre, check their specific websites, as they have their own recruitment procedures.

Open competitions for translators are usually published every year in June or July for linguists and at various times for translators at the Court of Justice (lawyer-linguists). The target languages required vary according to need. The aim of the competition is the create a reserve list for the recruitment of permanent officials.

How is a recruitment competition organised?

Open competitions generally consist of pre selection tests with multiple choice questions to test your verbal, abstract and numerical reasoning skills and your linguistic competence. This is followed by a comprehensive assessment which relates largely to your translation skills and general competencies. The whole procedure takes five to nine months on average. As the selection procedure may be subject to changes, always check the EPSO website and relevant competition notices for the most recent details.

What are the main languages needed?

The target languages needed are all the official EU languages – i.e. Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish – mainly in combination with English, French or German.

Can I take part in these competitions?

Yes, provided:

  • you are a citizen of a Member State of the EU or of an acceding State;
  • you have perfect command of the target language (usually your mother tongue) and a thorough knowledge of at least two other official EU languages, of which at least one must be English, French or German;
  • you must have a university degree, not necessarily in languages (for lawyer-linguist competitions, you must hold a suitable legal education qualification from a Member State)

No professional experience is generally required.

How am I recruited from the reserve list?

On the basis of the requirements of the EU institutions and the budgetary resources available, successful candidates may be invited to an interview for possible recruitment. The reserve list is valid for a specific period which can be extended if necessary.

Where can I find further details?

Working for the EU as a freelance translator

Do the EU institutions work with freelance translators?

Yes, apart from the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union and of the European Council – these two institutions rely (with a few exceptions) on their in-house translating staff.

Currently, more than one quarter of all translations are outsourced. Any Eu document, except for certain particularly sensitive, confidential or urgent texts, can be translated by freelancers, who are expected to produce impeccable quality.

How can I become a freelance translator for the EU?

Freelance translators and translation agencies, whether they are based in the EU or not, can respond to calls for tender, which can be found here or here.

What are the main languages needed?

The target languages needed are all the official EU languages – i.e. Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish – mainly in combination with English, French or German.

Other languages, such as Arabic, Chinese or Russian, account for less than 1% of the pages translated by freelancers.

Where can I find further details?