How to Build Your Career as an Interpreter

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Becoming a professional interpreter can be one of the most rewarding pursuits of your life. Interpreting is a fascinating and rewarding career that allows you to bridge the gap between people from different cultures and languages. But where do you get started, and how can you build your career as an interpreter?

In this article, we’ll explore some practical tips and insights to help you embark on your journey as an interpreter and succeed in this dynamic field.

Whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced interpreter looking to grow your business, you’ll find useful advice and resources to enhance your skills, expand your network, and achieve your goals.

group of interpreters talking in different languages

A Glance at Interpreting as a Professional Career

Interpreting is a career that enables communication between people who speak different languages and come from different cultures. Interpreters are crucial in facilitating conversations, negotiations, and interactions in various settings, such as business, government, healthcare, education, and legal contexts. They help people overcome linguistic and cultural barriers, reduce misunderstandings and conflicts, and build trust and relationships.

Interpreters also provide access to information and services for those otherwise excluded or disadvantaged due to language barriers. As globalization and multiculturalism continue to shape our world, the demand for interpreters and interpreting technology is growing, creating diverse and rewarding opportunities for those who pursue this career path.

How to Get Started as an Interpreter

The initial steps that any potential interpreter must take include language assessment, identifying potential areas of specialization, and researching the job market. These three factors will help you determine whether or not you’re ready to pursue a career as an interpreter.

Language skills and proficiency assessment

Before you can become an interpreter, you must be able to demonstrate your exceptional language skills in no less than two languages. You should evaluate your proficiency in your native language and in the language(s) you want to interpret. You may need to take language proficiency tests to determine your level of fluency and accuracy.

Identifying areas of interest

Although many people assume that all interpreters can interpret for just about any niche, various interpreting jobs require specialized skills. The area of specialization you choose will depend on your interests and personal areas of expertise. Interpreters can increase their expertise and earning potential by specializing in a specific field, such as healthcare, legal, or business interpreting. Specializing requires additional training and education but can lead to more challenging and rewarding opportunities.

Job market research

Researching the demand for interpreters in the geographic area and industry you want to work in, is important. This can help you understand the opportunities and challenges you may face and the qualifications and requirements that employers or clients may expect from interpreters.

By following these steps, you can better understand your language skills and interests, as well as the market for interpreters in your area. This can help you make informed decisions about your education and training, as well as your career goals and strategies.

Interpreter Training and Education

There are a variety of education and training opportunities available for interpreters. You can gain your education through formal university programs or professional courses offered by State or National institutions. Naturally, you can also keep developing your skills through add-on courses to help you stay current with industry trends as a professional linguist.

Formal programs

Many colleges, universities, and vocational schools offer formal education programs in interpreting, such as certificate or degree programs. These programs provide a comprehensive foundation in interpreting skills, language proficiency, cultural competence, ethics, and industry-specific knowledge. Some degree programs include a bachelor’s degree for conference interpreters, a bachelor’s degree for community interpreters, and degrees for sign language interpreting specialists.

Professional courses

Several professional certifications and credentials are available for interpreters, such as those offered by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). Professional courses are all accredited by the American Translators Association and require language interpreters to pass a rigorous exam that assesses their skills and knowledge in interpreting, proficiency in foreign languages, and ethics.

Continuous skills development

Continuing education opportunities include workshops, seminars, webinars, online courses, and professional development events. Interpreters can also participate in language immersion programs, cultural exchange programs, and other activities that enhance their language proficiency and cultural competence.

How Professional Interpreters Build Experience

Gaining practical experience in your field of interpreting is essential as this will increase your job prospects and earnings potential. Here’s how you can gain valuable interpretation experience:

Internships and volunteering

Volunteering and internships are great ways for interpreters to gain experience and build their professional networks. Interpreters can volunteer with community organizations, schools, or non-profits that serve non-native speakers of their target language. They can also seek internships with businesses, government agencies, or hospitals offering interpreting services.


Interpreters can gain experience by freelancing or taking on contract work from organizations that want to grow a brand with interpreting. They can offer their services to local businesses or organizations that need project-by-project interpretation. They can also work as a contractor for interpreting agencies that match interpreters with clients.

Working with agencies

Working with interpreting agencies can provide interpreters with steady work and opportunities to build their skills and reputation. Interpreting agencies typically handle the logistics of scheduling and payment, while interpreters provide the actual interpreting services. Interpreters can also work directly for organizations, such as hospitals or schools, that regularly need interpreting services.

Final Thoughts

Interpreting is a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those passionate about language and communication. To build a successful career as an interpreter, one should focus on gaining education and training, building practical experience, learning how to use interpreting apps, and growing their career through specialization. By following these strategies, interpreters can position themselves for success in this growing and dynamic field.

Interpretation is a critical service that facilitates communication and understanding between individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, and interpreters play an essential role in making this communication possible. Whether you are just starting out or looking to advance in your career, there are many opportunities available for interpreters to build a fulfilling and rewarding career.

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