Job descriptions and industry overviews

Translator: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

Translators convey the meaning of written words from one language to another.

letters to represent word translation

What does a set designer do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Translators work with written documents to convey their meaning and style into other languages. They predominantly work with business, technical, legal and scientific written materials, although some translate fiction, poetry and scripts. There are also specialist opportunities to work on text from video games and film subtitles.

Translators are different from interpreters, who work with the spoken word.

Typical duties include:

  • reading and researching documents, terminology and linguistic styles
  • reproducing text accurately in different languages, often using specialist software. Translation tends to be from a ‘source language’ (a language that’s not your native tongue) into your ‘target language’ (your mother tongue)
  • ensuring translated material is suitable for the intended readers
  • consulting experts
  • developing contacts and building relationships with clients
  • managing projects.

You’re likely to work standard ‘office’ hours (nine-to-five), although you may not be based in an office. You may need to work late or unsociable hours if a deadline is due or if a client is in a different time zone.

Graduate salaries

According to Glassdoor, earnings for translators tend to start at around £17,000 a year and can increase to around £29,000 with more experience. However, as it’s common to be self-employed as a translator, you could be paid per project, per word or on another basis you’ve agreed with your clients.

As you build experience, your earnings will grow, as will your ability to focus on areas of specialist interest. Glassdoor reports that translators in senior positions earn around £48,000 per year.

Typical employers of translators

  • Translation agencies.
  • Commercial and industrial organisations, such as manufacturers.
  • Local, national and international governments and bodies such as the United Nations.
  • Other public sector bodies, such as NHS trusts.

Many translators are freelancers or work for agencies.

Vacancies are advertised by careers services, university departments and professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

You’ll also find jobs advertised on sector-specific jobs boards, such as (for jobs in the NHS) and (for government jobs).

Qualifications and training required

You usually need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree to become a translator. Specialist postgraduate programmes will introduce you to the processes and software involved in professional translating, which can help your job applications stand out. Work experience will also help here: look for voluntary work if your degree didn’t involve a placement or you can’t find paid work experience.

The CIOL and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting offer a range of professional qualifications and membership categories. Although optional, they can testify to your competency and help make you more employable.

Once you’re working, it’s important to continue learning about your chosen languages and the cultures behind them. This will help you compete for work if you’re a freelancer and will enable you to build additional insights you can bring to each project.

Key skills for translators

  • The ability to work to deadlines.
  • The ability to grasp new concepts quickly, eg technical terms.
  • Cultural awareness and sensitivity.
  • A clear writing style with an impeccable knowledge of spelling and grammar.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Fluency in at least two foreign languages.
  • The ability to build good relationships with clients.

Make sure to sign up to targetjobs to get all the benefits of our graduate job-hunting platform including tailored advice and job opportunities.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

People reading this also searched for roles in these areas:

Related careers advice

undefined background image

We've got you

Get the latest jobs, internships, careers advice, courses and graduate events based on what's important to you. Start connecting directly with top employers today.