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Translator or Interpreter: Career Information

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Two business executives using American sign language
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Job Description:

According to infoplease.com there are about 6,500 spoken languages in the world. As the professionals responsible for converting information from one language to another, interpreters and translators have their work cut out for them. Interpreters work with spoken language, as well as sign language, while translators' purview is the written word. To convert information from one language (the source) to another (the target), these professionals must use their knowledge of the languages, cultures and subject matter.

Employment Facts:

Fifty-eight thousand people were employed as translators and interpreters in 2010. They worked in professional, scientific and technical services; educational services and healthcare and social services. Almost a quarter of them were self employed.

Educational Requirements:

In addition to specialized training in interpreting and translating, those who want to enter this occupation must be fluent in at least two languages—the ones they want to interpret or translate to or from. Most employers prefer job candidates who have a bachelor's degree, but one does not have to major in a language. Something to keep in mind is that one can choose a major based on the subject area in which he or she would like to specialize, for example law, technology or engineering to name just a few.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Interpreters and translators, in addition to language fluency, must have knowledge about the cultures related to the speakers of those languages. A good way to acquire this knowledge is through travel to the countries in which those languages are spoken. Reading extensively, on a variety of subjects, in both languages is also helpful.

Advancement Opportunities:

As a translator or interpreter gains experience, he or she may take on more difficult or prestigious assignments, or even start his or her own business. One might opt to become certified in order to demonstrate proficiency in this field.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

The future looks promising for translators and interpreters. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts much faster than average job growth for this field through 2020. The agency expects it will be one of the fastest growing jobs that requires a bachelor's degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

In 2011 median annual earnings were $44,160 and the median hourly salary was $21.23.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Translator or Interpreter currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Translator Or Interpreter's Life:

On a typical day a translator or interpreter's tasks might include:

  • Converting written or spoken information from a source to a target language
  • Converting between sign language and a spoken language
  • Accurately relaying style or tone so that meaning remains the same when translating or interpreting from one language to another
  • Adhering to strict deadlines when dealing with translating written material
  • If doing translation, working on a computer to receive, compose and submit documents
  • Protecting the confidentiality of material as required
  • Referring to reference sources as needed to insure accuracy of translated works

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Translator or Interpreter, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Media-and-Communication/Interpreters-and-translators.htm (visited June 29, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Translator or Interpreter, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-3091.00 (visited June 29, 2012).

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