Becoming an Interpreter and Translator

Become an interpreter and translator

A more globalized society means that encountering language barriers is inevitable. From conducting business meetings with clients from different countries and cultures to creating subtitles for Hollywood blockbusters, it is becoming increasingly important for companies in all industries to find multilingual interpreters and translators.

Interpreters are charged with converting spoken language or sign language between parties while translators primarily work in written formats - translating everything from advertisements to books and magazines to different languages. It is critical that these professionals know two or more languages and can speak, write and read fluently in both. Moreover, it is important to master each language in its formal and informal usage.

 
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Mastering multiple languages often requires compiling extensive glossaries for technical terms as well as notes about style and tone. For this reason, many prospective interpreters and translators take relevant online courses to master the language they are interested in as well as the skills necessary to interpret and translate across any communicational barrier. You may prefer online courses because they often do not require commuting and classes can be taken at the convenience of the student.

Are Online Interpreter and Translator Programs for You?

Here is what you should consider when choosing an online interpreter and translator program:

  • Above all else, it is vital that an interpreter or translator be fluent in English and at least one other language. For this reason, many employers look for candidates that have received a bachelor's degree in a relevant area or have completed appropriate job-specific training programs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[i].
  • While an employer may value a candidate with years of experience speaking a different language, industry experience can also provide value. Many areas of law and business contain specific terminology, and candidates who know that terminology are often sought after.
  • There are several certifications that show proficiency in different areas of translation and interpretation. In a general context, the American Translators Association provides certifications between 26 languages and English. 
  • The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators offers certifications that specifically involve legal and court interpretation.
  • The National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf specialize in sign language interpretation.
  • The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters offer certifications that specifically relate to health care terminology and interpretation.
  • The U.S. Department of State offers three certifications that judge the effectiveness of interpreters pursuing positions as escorts, court work interpreters and international conference interpreters.
  • Before signing up for online courses, consider the route you want to pursue in translating and interpretation as well as the language you plan on mastering in conjunction with English. Additionally, inquire how online courses may prepare you for corresponding certifications or industry experience.

Interpreter and Translator Career Paths and Potential Salaries

Career paths for interpreters and translators vary greatly according to your relevant industry and language experience. While some may choose to seek teaching positions, others may work in business, law, health, travel or many other fields. Study which options may be available using statistics compiled by the BLS.

Interpreters and Translators[i]

This is the umbrella category that many interpreting and translating professionals fall under. They make a living conducting meetings between business professionals, navigating through language barriers in court rooms and hospitals, and providing assistance to the deaf.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 46 percent (much faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers[ii]

While many interpreters and translators merely convert languages in speaking and writing so that two parties can communicate with one another, adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers are charged with teaching non-English speakers how to convert their native tongue into English.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 9 percent (average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

Writers and Authors[iii]

Writers and authors with experience in different languages are also needed to convert books, journals, magazines, movies and more from one language to another. These interpreters and translators are expected to convert writing effectively while keeping the style and tone of the original piece intact.

  • See the BLS for median annual salary information
  • Job growth through 2022: 3 percent (slower than average)
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree

[i] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm#tab-1

[ii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/adult-literacy-and-ged-teachers.htm

[iii] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm