Translator: Job Duties and Information About Becoming a Language Translation Professional
A Translator converts written documents from one language into another. In contrast, an interpreter deals with spoken language. Though the fields of Translation and interpretation are closely related, they differ in skill sets and job opportunities. A Translator must have expertise in at least two languages and a bachelor's degree is usually required for entry-level positions. Professional certification can also aid in career advancement.
Career Definition: Translator
A Translator converts written words from a 'source' language into a 'target' language, which is almost always his or her native language. Most Translators specialize in a combination of source and target languages, such as 'French to English' or 'English to Chinese.' Additionally, Translators often specialize in a certain topic, such as literature, finance, law, medicine or technology. Most staff employment opportunities are in Washington, D.C., New York and California; however, the need for Translators is expanding throughout the U.S., especially in the area of healthcare. Currently, the majority of Translators work in public and private education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
How to Become a Translator
Required Education for a Career in Language Translation
Most entry-level Translation positions require a bachelor's degree in addition to expertise in at least two languages and experience gained through internships. Certification may be required for some positions and can enhance earning potential by as much as 35%, according to the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org). Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in Translation and specific languages, but candidates are also encouraged to study subjects such as economics or humanities so that they can develop Translation career specialties.
Skills Required to Work as a Translator
Translators must be experts in two languages. They must also possess superior writing, editing and grammar skills in their target language. Computer and word processing skills are essential, and familiarity with translation software programs is becoming increasingly important. Translators in a specialized field, such as law, must be familiar with legal systems both in the U.S. and abroad. Translation professionals must also understand various international customs and cultures. Freelance Translators must be highly organized and possess marketing, networking and bookkeeping skills.
Economic Outlook for Language Translation
There are staff opportunities for Translators in education, the private sector, government, healthcare and the legal system. More than one-fifth are self-employed. Wages may vary depending on experience, education, certification, demand for a particular language combination and expertise in a specific subject. The BLS expects employment opportunities to grow by 24 percent from 2006 through 2016, which is much faster than average. In a 2006 survey conducted by the American Translator's Association, full-time in-house translators reported annual earnings of $59,472 (www.atanet.org).
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