Translator: Job Duties & Career Info
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.
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 several opportunities for Translators in education, the private sector, government, healthcare, and the legal system. Almost a quarter of translators are self-employed. Wages may vary depending on experience, education, certification, demand for a particular language combination, and expertise in a specific subject. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities to grow by 42% from 2010 through 2020, which is much faster than average. The BLS estimated the median annual salary of a translator working in the U.S. in May 2012 as $45,430.
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