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Translation and interpreting: graduate area of work

Translators convert text written in a foreign language to their mother tongue, or another specified language.

Translators predominantly work with business, technical, legal and scientific written materials including letters, reports, articles and books .

Their work incorporates:

  • reading documents
  • writing and editing copies
  • preparing summaries
  • consulting clients
  • developing contacts
  • using translation computer programmes.

Employers include translation companies, commercial and industrial organisations, the European Union, the Civil Service and international organisations such as the United Nations. Many translators are self-employed/freelance, paid per word according to language. Earnings thus depend on translation speeds so additional forms of employment to supplement incomes may be necessary.

What's required

A language degree is normally the minimum academic requirement for entry. For graduates without a relevant background, or for language graduates whose studies did not include translation, a postgraduate translation qualification is necessary. There is also a recognised Diploma in Translation offered by the Institute of Linguists.

A good general knowledge, excellent spoken and written English, fluency in two or more foreign languages and IT skills are essential. Areas of expertise, such as scientific, technical or legal knowledge can be beneficial. Practical translation work, a EU stage or any other commercial or administrative experience is useful.

Where to find out more

There is strong competition for vacancies, particularly for those within European Union and Civil Service organisations. Specialist translation companies and agencies often prefer experienced staff. Advertisements appear in newspapers and publications such as The Official Journal of the European Communities, The Linguist, Language Monthly and Language International. Directories and Members Lists published by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting can provide useful contact information for networking and speculative applications.