Terminologists collect and document technical terms; they do research on and provide equivalents or create new terms for concepts, which have as yet have not been named, for the benefit of the users of terminology.

Terminologists may be involved in collecting, systematising and documenting terms belonging to a particular technical field or fields. They need to verify terms to establish their linguistic and technical accuracy, in collaboration with experts and other authorities. They provide equivalents in addition to creating terms in the target language. They may be required to edit and accurately proofread documents, as well as revise and update terminology used in them.

They are involved in the facilitation and standardisation of terminology, in collaboration with subject specialists, as well as promoting the use of standardised terms. They may also be involved in the compilation of glossaries or dictionaries, usually as part of a team, in order to make terminological data available to prospective users; and providing an information service, thereby rendering terminological and linguistic assistance and advice to the public.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: Bdegree with one or more of the country’s official languages as major subjects as well as a familiarity with subjects such as Economics, History, Political Science, or any of the subjects in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering or technology is a strong recommendation - most universities.

Translation Studies - Wits and UL. Linguistics - US, UZ, Wits. Language Practice - NWU, UFS

Some universities plan to include comprehensive modules on Lexicology and Lexicography that cover various aspects of terminology and terminography in their honours degree in Translation Studies.

Diploma: N.Dip: Language Practice - CUT, DUT
This diploma prepares students, inter alia, for entry to a career as a terminologist.

Practical in-service training plays an important part in the moulding of a terminologist and is usually undertaken by a senior official in a terminology office.


  • the National Terminology Services of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and and Technology, which is responsible for the publishing of term lists and dictionaries and which also manages the National Termbank, is one of the largest organisations that employs and trains terminologists
  • other employers are the language services of some municipalities, banks, insurance companies, as well as the South African National Defence Force, the State Language Services, Mittal Steel, Telkom and the SABS
  • self-employment, can do private work for publishers and act as a consultant for writers; can also write a subject or a synonym dictionary
The 11 official languages in South Africa created a great need, especially in the African languages for technical terminology. This need should widen the terminologist’s scope for self-employment considerably.

Further Information

The Head
National Terminology Services
Department of Arts & Culture
Science and Technology
Private Bag X894
Pretoria, 0001
Tel. (012) 314-6157

Getting Started

  • read widely about the history and use of languages
  • hone your language skills by listening to radio programmes in other languages
  • arrange to speak to terminologists about this type of career and ask about holiday or part-time work

Programmes by Study Institutions

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