Translators convert the written word from a source language to a target language, while ensuring that the accuracy of meaning is maintained as best as possible. Although most translators provide their services in all subject areas, many choose to specialise in a particular field or industry such as medicine or law.
Duties and responsibilities
- Read material from one language and rewrite it in another language
- Ensure that the original meaning is maintained
- Consider cultural references, such as slang, when translating materials
- Relay style and tone
- Discuss requirements with clients and give quotes for services
- Research legal, technical or scientific terms
- Consult with industry experts to ensure translations are accurate
- Proofread and edit other translators’ work
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Variable work schedules
Translators who are employed by a translation company or individual organisation typically work in an office setting during standard business hours.
The work schedules of self-employed translators, however, are more variable and largely depend on their workloads. They may also often have to work irregular hours, including late nights and early mornings, to respond to international clients in real-time.
Their work can be stressful, especially when dealing with deadlines and tight schedules.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Bachelor’s degree in translation
Employers generally prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in translation. A master’s degree, meanwhile, can further improve your prospects.
That said, you do not necessarily need to pursue formal education in order to become a translator. Proficiency in at least two languages is usually sufficient. You may, however, be required to complete specialised training, particularly if you would like to work in a hospital or courtroom.
Certification is not typically required, but it can establish your credibility with clients, especially if you’re self-employed. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers certification in 29 language combinations.
Translators often begin their careers by working at a government department or commercial service. With experience, they can climb the ranks into management positions, overseeing a team of translators.
Many translators choose to set up their own businesses or go into teaching. With additional training, they can also become interpreters.