How to Become a Translator
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Above-Average Job Growth for Multilingual Workers
Did you grow up speaking a language other than English? Are you wondering what you can do with a college degree in a foreign language? Both can be paths to a career as a translator. With full-time, part-time, contract and freelance opportunities across a variety of industries, you may be able to find work as a translator that suits you and your family.
Translators take the written word in one language and convert it to a second language. They translate documents across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including science, technology, politics, economics, law, literature and social sciences. The goal of a translator is to remain as true as possible to the original source material. An excellent vocabulary is required in the main language as well as one or more other languages the translator uses. Translators may use technology in their work, such as voice recognition software, dictation equipment and computer-assisted translation technology.
Although there are no formal education requirements, translators must be able to speak, read and write at a level of fluency comparable to that of an educated native speaker. For many translators, that means earning a minimum of a bachelor's degree.
Certification by the American Translators Association can increase job opportunities and pay. To be certified, you must pass a rigorous three-hour computerized exam that tests your reading and writing skills in the target language. To maintain your certification, you must earn 20 hours of continuing education every three years. Courses are offered through colleges and universities, online and through professional organizations.
About the Industry
Translators work with written language. Interpreters, whose work is related, deal with spoken language. Most translators and interpreters work full time during regular business hours, but there are opportunities for flexible schedules and working remotely. Translators and interpreters are employed in public and private settings, including government, hospitals, schools, courtrooms and industry.
Years of Experience
The median annual salary for a translator is $45,649, meaning that half in the profession earn more while half earn less. Salaries can vary widely depending on geographic location, type of employer and languages of fluency. Typical salary ranges based on experience are as follows:
- Less than one year of experience: $41,721 to $44,857
- 3 to 4 years of experience: $44,052 to $47,197
- 5 to 6 years of experience: $45,258 to $48,643
- 7+ years of experience: $45,659 to $49,095
Job Growth Trends
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for interpreters and translators will be about 18 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than average compared to all other jobs. The increase in the number of non-English speakers in the U.S., along with the movement toward greater globalization, are expected to fuel the demand.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.