Oct 172011

The company that wants to hire me in France is hiring me in part because I have a Master’s degree (aka, high school plus 6 years of study). It’s not only because they want an educated person working there. Apparently there is a different path for getting a visa for people with more education. I think the idea is that they want to encourage people to get visas by making it easier.

As part of the process I sent the company a copy and translation of my Master’s degree. The translation has to be “official” of course, meaning it’s notarized and has an apostille (a stamp by the Secretary of State). Here is the problem.

The translation of the word “Master” on my degree was translated into “Maîtrise.” Fine, right? translate.google.com says that’s right, and so do lots of other places. Unfortunately, “Maîtrise” means high school plus 4 years of study. So the company contacted me to let me know that the translation was not acceptable. They could plainly see that the original degree says “Master” and that the translation says Maîtrise. Naturally, I contacted the translation service I used to request a more accurate translation. The response?

That is the correct translation. The word “Master” doesn’t exist in French dictionaries.

Technically they’re right about the dictionary. “Master” doesn’t appear in many French dictionaries online. Unfortunately, the word they used in the translation does have a different meaning than the original word. A simple search for French diploma equivalencies reveals that they do use the word “Master.” Apparently a google search wasn’t good enough for the translator. He eventually agreed to “not translate that part of the degree.”

This “translation” was apparently good enough for the company that wants to hire me. We’ll see if it actually works out that way.

Later I discovered that the word “Master” is in French dictionaries. It’s spelled “Mastère.” Needless to say, I am very displeased with my official translation.

For the record, here are some American and French diploma equivalents (roughly).

United States France
High School Diploma / GED Baccalauréat (aka “le bac”)
La licence (+3)
Bachelor’s Degree (+4) Maîtrise (+4)
Master / Mastère (+5)
Master’s Degree (+6)

To get a “certificate of comparability” of your degree,  which is probably better than a translation, visit http://www.ciep.fr/enic-naricfr/equivalence.php. Start early though, the process is supposed to take two to three months.