How to Become an Interpreter and Translator


Table of Contents

1. Overview: Job Responsibilities, Salary, and Common Requirements

2. A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming an Interpreter and Translator

3. What Does an Interpreter and Translator Do?

4. Signs You Should Consider Becoming an Interpreter and Translator

5. How Do You Become an Interpreter and Translator?

6. What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be an Interpreter and Translator?

7. Popular Schools and Colleges in the U.S. for Aspiring Interpreter and Translators

8. How to Get a Job as an Interpreter and Translator

9. Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

10. Make Your Resume Stand Out

11. Ace Your Interpreter and Translator Interview

12. Top Online Courses for Aspiring Interpreter and Translator​s


Job Responsibilities

  • Convert source language to the target language
  • Ensure quality and accuracy of the entire interpretation or translation
  • Serve as liaison between clients
  • Able to understand the message from the source who is using spoken languages
  • Make possible efficient communication between two parties that do not speak a similar language
  • Edit and proofread text to accurately reflect language.

How Much Does an Interpreter and Translator Make?

Interpreters and Translators made a median salary of $51,830 in 2019. The best-paid 10 percent made $94,370 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $28,170.


Common Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in translation, interpretation, or related field
  • Language experienced
  • Attended formal interpreting and translating training or classes
  • Preferably obtained certifications in interpreting or translating programs or courses
  • Continuing education training and workshops

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$51,830 per year
$24.92 per hour





A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming an Interpreter and Translator

Interpreters and translators convert written materials or spoken words into another language, whether it is oral or written language of a particular community or country, or even through sign language where a person uses visual gestures to convert information.

Interpreting and translating are two different processes but have a similar goal. Translating is the process of converting the written text to another written language while interpreting is the process of converting a language verbally.

Most people interchange interpreting and translating because of the following similarities:

  • Translators and Interpreters are linguistics as they can analyze a language form, meaning, and context.
  • Both convert messages from one language to another in a way that the receiver of the message can understand it.
  • They work with a main language and a target language.
  • They usually work with their native language and have an in-depth knowledge of another language.

What are the differences between interpreting and translating?


  • The main medium is the verbal language
  • Takes place on the spot (simultaneous), e.g. in person, over the phone or via video
  • Low accuracy of translating all words that are used. What important is the gist of the message
  • Must be fluent of the languages that are used by the source and the target


  • Main medium is written text
  • Not required to translate on the spot. Can take place after the content is created
  • High-level accuracy of the translated content is important
  • Does not required to be fluent in the source language as they will be translating those using their native language

Sign Language Interpreter

sign language interpreter is someone who is trained to help individuals who are deaf or a hearing-impaired person by converting spoken language into sign language.

What Does an Interpreter and Translator Do?

The role of interpreters and translators is important in the business world. They enhance the communication between two businesses or people who are using different languages by accurately converting the information from one language to another.

Some important services the translators and interpreters can provide in the global businesses


Medical interpreters focus on verbal communication. They serve as a liaison between the patients, hospital management, or doctors. They must know medical terms and have the ability to interpret the information to both parties (patient and hospital management or doctors).

Medical translators are trained to translate written documents to paperwork. They must also have strong knowledge of the technical and medical terms and ensure that all of the information is correctly written in the paperwork.

Why Is Medical Interpretation a Good Career Choice?

  • It is a fulfilling and exciting career because your language abilities can help someone in times of need.
  • You can provide accurate information between medical staff and the limited English proficient (LEP).
  • You will gain more knowledge in medicine and healthcare. You will also hone your skills in writing and language.


Conference interpreters are often the mediators that you find in multilingual meetings. These interpreters play an important role in global politics and international businesses. They translate the message of the speaker in another language so that their client or listener can fully understand the message. Also, they interpret the message of the speaker either simultaneously, through whispering, through phone, or consecutively.


Localization is not the same as translation, especially when it comes to marketing. For a product to be globally competitive, you must tailor your marketing strategy in each country or community for you to increase engagement and increase your chance to make sales.

In localization, you will provide different content in your market for people who are using a different language, taking into consideration their beliefs, culture, and laws. You are customizing your message to overcome the language barriers so that they will understand your original message.


These are specialized business interpreters and translators who have a great knowledge of a particular business such as marketing, engineering, finance, economics, etc. They understand the terminology used and are able to interpret those accurately to a target audience.

Sign Language Interpreter Duties

A sign language interpreter is responsible for an individual with hearing problems to accurately understand the message from the source who is using spoken languages. This type of service is needed in different settings, such as government offices, law offices, courtrooms, schools, hospitals, and other government agencies.

Signs You Should Consider Becoming an Interpreter and Translator

Sign language interpreters usually have distinct personalities. They are kind, caring, patient, friendly, empathetic, artistic, articulate, and expressive. 

The role of interpreters and translators require some particular attributes as well. These are:

You have an amazing language skill

Although it sounds obvious, successful interpreters and translators have a strong grasp of the language they interpret for. They speak and write so well that they are sometimes better than a native speaker. They can interpret and translate words instantly without needing to refer to a dictionary or any translation resources.

You have high-stress tolerance

Interpreting and translating are stressful activities. The speed of the speaker’s delivery or highfalutin or ambiguous words has a huge influence on the level of stress interpreters and translators are experiencing. If a person has high-stress tolerance, he/she can remain calm and more focused on converting languages to another, thus, having less or no mistakes.

You have integrity

The core of what interpreters and translators do is linguistic integrity. This means that as much as possible, nothing is added, altered, or omitted to the source language whether spoken or written. You are able to deliver the main thought of the source of information. Also, you are committed to impartiality, confidentiality, and comply with the federal or state laws and the required rules of your association or organization.

You are reliable

You are reliable in terms of being consistently good in the quality of your performance. Your clients trust that you are honest with your service and that your translations or interpretations are accurate.


How Do You Become an Interpreter and Translator?

Interpreters and translators usually need a bachelor’s degree, but the most important requirement is that one should be fluent in at least two (2) languages. However, if you want to pursue a career and succeed in either of these two fields, then you should consider taking the following steps.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is necessary for an interpreter and translator to become certified and have a chance to work for the government. Although having a major in a foreign language or specific area such as business is not necessary, you have the option to earn a degree in the language or specific area of your choice. The most important thing is that you should be fluent in at least two (2) languages (one of those is English), and learn the culture, law, and other important matters of the language that you are studying.

2. Attend formal training 

Some schools offer their students who want to be interpreters or translators formal training. They also offer certificates to those successful students who are able to complete the formal training.

3. Get certified

Some certifications are not mandatory, but still quite beneficial for aspiring interpreters and translators. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and American Translators Association (ATA) provides certification or exams, and so as the association and organizations listed below:

4. Enroll in online courses.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, interpreters and translators are projected to grow 20 percent from 2019 to 2029. It only proves that the demand for these careers is high.

Be equipped and even earn certificates by enrolling in online classes. Some online courses are affordable, and some are also free. Skill Success offers a wide range of in-demand languages for interpreter and translator courses [Top Online Courses for Aspiring Interpreter and Translator].

Becoming an American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter

This is a language expressed by hand movements, body language, and other expressions. It is a natural language that has the same components or properties of a spoken American language and is widely used by the deaf community in the U.S.

According to research from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorder (NIDCD), 30 million Americans age 12 and older have hearing loss in both ears, leading ASL study to myriad careers.

Some ASL interpreters learn sign language in an informal way, such as learning from a family member or friend that is deaf or with hearing loss.

Also, you can become an ASL interpreter by gaining formal education—which is in high demand. Typically, proficiency in English and a bachelor’s degree is required, but you can also opt for an associate degree or taking a certificate program as long as it is an accredited program.

There are two (2) degree programs an aspiring ASL interpreter can take:

1. American Sign Language- English Interpretation

This degree helps students develop the foundation skills in sign language and helps students to prepare for a professional career as an ASL interpreter.

2. American Sign Language – Deaf Culture Track

This program helps students to explore the fundamentals aspect of ASL and deaf culture. It is more in-depth than the American Sign Language-English Interpretation; thus, it is a perfect program for someone who plans to work with a deaf individual or community.

What are the Knowledge and Skills Needed to be an Interpreter and Translator?

Now that we have distinguished the difference between an interpreter and a translator, let’s list the different sets of skills for these two careers.

Interpreters should have the following skills and knowledge:

Extremely good listening skills

Interpreters should exercise their listening skills in the language that they will interpret. They must listen carefully so that they will pick up every word being said and its meaning, making sure that the important details are not missed. This is because they simultaneously construct and articulate the message that they will interpret to another language.

Exceptional memory skills

Interpreters are innate with a powerful memory. They have the ability to retain what they have heard and then analyze and process what they have heard and put the information into context

Cultural Competence

They should be aware of their target’s culture, values, traditions, customs, law or policies, and religion to have a perfect understanding of how they will deliver the message appropriately and effectively without disrespecting the target’s culture or character.

Speaking skills

This includes clear and precise delivery of the message from the source to the target. It involves the correct usage of words and the correct pronunciation as well.

Writing skills

Translating is the process of converting a written text to another written language. Thus, a translator should have excellent writing skills. If you want to be a good interpreter, you should be excellent with grammar, the correct spelling of words, and have the ability to write using different styles.

Reading and comprehension skills

You should be fluent in your own native language and your target language so that you fully understand the meaning of the source text. Because of this, you can avoid misinterpreting the source of the text, and you can deliver the message accurately.

Attention to details

A translator is able to proofread and edit his own work detecting typos effortlessly.  Since translating is a comprehensive task, even small details such as punctuation and formatting are important in the role of a translator.

You can learn foreign languages on your own or enroll in colleges or universities that offer foreign language programs. Here is a list of translation and interpretation schools, foreign language schools, and American sign language (ASL) interpreting schools.

List of translation and interpretation schools and Foreign language schools

  • University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
  • Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.
  • Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University, Kent, OH
  • Monterey Institute of International Studies, Middlebury, VT
  • State University New York, Binghamton, NY
  • New York University, New York, New York
  • The Center for Translation Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX
  • School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
  • La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Arizona State University, Tucson, AZ
  • University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA
  • Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
  • Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • Indiana University – Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
  • Washington State University, Pullman, WA
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
  • Columbia University, New York, NY

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreting Schools

  • St Catherine University, Saint Paul, MN
  • University of Houston, Houston, TX
  • University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • Utah Valley University, Orem, UT
  • William Woods University, Fulton, MO
  • Bethel College-Indiana, Mishawaka, IN
  • Framingham State University, Framingham, MA
  • Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID
  • Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN
  • Kent State University, Kent, OH
  • Keuka College, Keuka Park, NY
  • Lamar University, Beaumont, TX
  • Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA
  • Madonna University, Livonia, MI
  • Northeastern University, Boston, MA
  • Piedmont International University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
  • Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR
  • Bethel College – Indiana, Mishawaka, IN
  • Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
  • Indiana University – Purdue University – Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
  • St. Catherine University, Saint Paul, MN
  • MacMurray College, Jacksonville, IL

How to Get a Job as a Interpreter and Translator

Interpreters and translators work in different kinds of settings such as schools, courtrooms, conference centers, hospitals, government organizations, private clients, and many more. Having that said, you won’t have difficulties in finding a job; you just need to do thorough research.

Ways to Find a Job in Interpreting and Translating

Although some machines and applications help translate a language to another because those can translate words instantly, professional translators and interpreters are still in demand, because the capabilities of those machines and apps are limited—those can only read words and translate based on algorithms or dictionaries, and sometimes human intervention is still needed as they sometimes need to edit the output to ensure that there is no error.

There are many kinds of career for interpreters and translators, such as:

  • Community interpreters
  • Conference interpreters
  • Coordinating interpreters
  • Educational interpreters
  • Escort interpreters
  • Federal court interpreters
  • Foreign language interpreters and translators
  • Health or medical interpreters and translators
  • Healthcare interpreters and translators interpreters
  • Judiciary interpreters and translators
  • Legal or judicial interpreters and translators
  • Liaison interpreters
  • Literary interpreters
  • Literary translators
  • Localization translators
  • Localizers
  • Medical interpreters and translators
  • Mental health interpreters
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Simultaneous interpreters
  • State court interpreters
  • Translators
  • Trilingual interpreters
  • Escort interpreters

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, interpreters and translators held about 77,400 jobs in 2019 and a projected employment of 92,900 in 2029.

Here are some ways to find jobs in interpreting and translating.

Search for job openings online

The easiest and fastest way of finding job openings is through online job postings. You can find job postings in job search websites and also in social media groups. Here are some:

Working from home as an interpreter and translator

Being fluent in another language opens a lot of doors and possibilities to work online. You can start working from home or become a digital nomad and travel the world. Interpreter and translator require different skill sets and language capabilities. 

Becoming a home-based interpreter may require you to be physically present and use equipment that you will need for video conferencing or over-the-phone interpreting. On the other hand, translating is the preferred career for most because some clients won’t require you to work on a fixed schedule. 

You just need to choose two languages you are most proficient with, which is your native language and your second language. It rarely happens that you are to translate a target language that is not your native language. Below are the highest-paid translating languages that you need to know to help you choose which language you want to focus more.

  • Russian – $78,206 annually (on average)
  • German – $50,000 annually (on average)
  • Italian – $50,000 annually (on average)
  • Chinese – $74.92 per hour (on average)
  • Japanese – $20-40 per hour (for less experienced), $60-100 per hour (for experienced)
  • Arabic – $20.22 per hour (on average)
  • Portuguese – $20.06 per hour (on average)
  • Spanish – $19.49 per hour (on average)
  • French – $19.49 per hour (on average)

Informal or volunteer work

This is an excellent way for individuals who want to gain experience and for those who are seeking a career opportunity in interpreting and translating. Informal or volunteer opportunities are available through hospitals, schools, community organizations, churches, international competitions, and so on. As you gain experience through volunteering, it will be easier to you to find a job in industries such as being a courtroom interpreter or medical interpreter, and at the same time, you are building and establishing a network of contacts.

Learn About Geographic and Location Pay Differentials

Geographic areas often have location pay differentials, making a significant impact on your potential earnings. There are some states that offer a higher salary and some with lower salaries to interpreters and translators.

Here’s a list of the average mean of annual earnings of interpreters and translators in every state according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics dated 2019:

State2019 Mean Annual Wage
New York$72,580
New Jersey$71,960
North Carolina$58,040
New Mexico$53,810
State2019 Mean Annual Wage
Rhode Island$49,210
New Hampshire$48,640
South Carolina$46,150
South Dakota$39,730
North Dakota$35,220

Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Submitting resumes for candidates applying for jobs has been easy over the past few years because they can just submit it online. However, it also increased the number of applications a recruiter is receiving every day, making it a bit challenging for some to get noticed by the recruiter. Here are some tips on how your resume will get noticed.

Keep your resume brief

You do not make your resume long so that you can impress the recruiter. Your resume should be one- or two-page long, anything longer than that could only lose your chance from getting noticed. Recruiters need to go through hundreds of resumes almost every single day. Be concise and know what your selling points are to the position you are applying for.

A tip here is to review the job qualifications and responsibilities of the potential employer and tailor your resume based on the qualification and responsibilities.

Highlight your languages and specializations

Place this at the top or near the introduction of your resume. This will help the recruiter save time in reading what the languages you know.

Emphasize your certifications

You can place your hard-earned certification close to your languages and specializations. This will help your resume stand out because it shows that you are suitable for the position, especially when your certification is relevant to a job’s responsibility.

Add a unique feature in your resume

You can send a short video introduction of yourself and show off the languages you know to let them have an idea of how you speak. If you are a translator, you can send two (or more) versions of your resume, one in English and the other version is in another language. This will make you a more outstanding applicant.

Ace Your Interpreter and Translator Interview

“I believe luck is a preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.”― Oprah Winfrey

If you come in an interview prepared, chances are, you will get hired. That is why you need to know how to answer the questions to your interview specifically about the interpreter or translator job. Here are the common questions.

1. Why do you want to pursue a career in translation or interpreting?

Of course, companies want to hire someone who is passionate about their job. There is no trick in answering this question. You just need to think deeply and identify the main factor why you are the right fit for the position and the reason why you love to work for their company.

2. Why should we hire you as an interpreter or translator?

This is your chance to showcase your achievements, skills, experience, and your unique personality. You also need to be familiar with the job requirement and responsibilities as you need to link those to your skills and experiences.

3. What would you do if you need to interpret or translate information that is vulgar, blasphemous, and unpleasant?

There might be a time where you will encounter clients that might use offensive words or materials that you will translate with obnoxious words. What the recruiter wants to know is how you will overcome these challenges.

4. What do you look forward to in this position?

The best way to answer this question is how you would want to make the most of the skills and knowledge as an interpreter or translator. You can also mention that you are motivated by the challenges, and how you can successfully meet the challenges. Then give examples of your past experiences where you were faced with a challenge and how you achieved your goal.

5. What are your weaknesses?

We all have weaknesses, and the recruiter will definitely know if you are lying when you tell them that you don’t have one. Just think of your small flaw, and that’s what you need to tell your recruiter. What the recruiter wants to hear from you is that you are aware of your weakness and that you are taking a course of action to correct that problem.

Lastly, prepare a list of questions to ask the recruiter during the job interview. Remember that you are also looking for a company that you will work for in a long period of time and it is important to know if the company you are applying for is a good fit for you as well. There are tons of new languages to learn! On top of the options listed above, we also offer Korean language classes as well.

Top Online Courses for Aspiring Interpreter and Translators

Sharpen your skills in interpreting and translating by taking these top online courses

Skill Success has carefully curated and organized thousands of online video courses. Start your journey to becoming an interpreter and translator with these top online courses.

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