Careers Advice: Working as a Translator or Interpreter


When you learn a new language, one way you might like to put your skills to good use is by becoming a translator or interpreter.  Translation is turning a text written in one language into a text in another language and interpreting is conveying a spoken or signed message in a different spoken language.  In this post we give you tips about how to train for both professions.  They are both careers that can take you round the world or can allow you to work from your own home.  You will find more tips on how to work as a translator or interpreter in this webinar.

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Training as a Translator
There are many different translation genres, such as legal translation, medical translation, technical translation, scientific translation, literary translation – to name but a few – and it is possible to specialise in one or more.

Various universities in the UK and abroad offer translation courses, including the University of Bristol, which offers an MA in Translation and the University of Bath, which offers an MA in Translation and Professional Language Skills.

The Chartered Institute of Linguistics Diploma in Translation (DipTrans IoLET) is a postgraduate diploma available for many language combinations.  You can study for it at a school or through distance learning.

If literary translation is your thing, you can go to the British Centre for Literary Translation international summer school in Literary Translation and Creative Writing.

There are also numerous events that allow you to network with other translators and improve your career prospects, including the British Library Translation Day.  You can read about the 2015 edition on the British Library website.

Training as an Interpreter
Just as translation takes various forms and translators can specialise in different genres, there are different types of interpreting that require different types of training.

To do public service interpreting, which, in the UK, means interpreting in the areas of law (courts, solicitors, immigration), healthcare (hospitals, clinics, GP practices) and local government (housing, social work, education, etc.), you can train for an IoLET Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) for one of the three domains.

To interpret for the police, you can train for the IoLET Diploma in Police Interpreting.

You can also do a BA or an MA in Interpreting (such as this one at the University of Bath) – as long as public service interpreting skills are emphasised – or a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting.

Another type of interpreting is conference interpreting, that is used in business and government environments, which can be studied for at universities around the world.  Check here for a list of eligible schools. There is also advice on the European Commission website on how to become a conference interpreter; the European institutions are one of the main places that employ conference interpreters, alongside the United Nations, NATO, and other international bodies.

Membership of Professional Bodies
Like other professions, translation and interpreting have professional associations that you can be a member of. Membership of the Chartered Institute of Linguists gives you access to networking opportunities, professional development, a magazine subscription and other benefits as well. Membership of the Institute of Translators and Interpreters is available to individuals and organisations and includes benefits such as subscription to the ITI Bulletin professional journal, discounted events attendance, networking opportunities and access to job adverts.

Written Suzannah Young


  • Karolina says:


    I have read your article about translator and interpreter whichever I find really helpful. I am completely new in this area, so I would like to ask a few more questions.

    I have master degree in Psychology. Since 2012 I have been leaving in U.K. My English is fluent,but I feel like I still need to work a lot on it. I decided that I would like to improve it to really high level and then I thought that I could be possibly translator or interpreter one day. What career pathway would you recommend to me ? Do I have to do some degree in translation/ interpretation on university ? Or maybe diploma is enough ? Do you think doing Cambridge Profficeny English would be usefull ? I add that I am polish so I am obviously native speaker in this language.

    I look forward to hear from you

    Your faithfully

    Karolina Rachula

    • Hi Karolina, Thank you for your query. I would suggest to visit various websites mentioned in our blog article and see what would be your next step. See degrees, diplomas, certificates. Ask yourself a question, can I study for one year and get ready for an exam/test/certificate? Maybe try to find a course/workshop/webinar that explains the profession and can give you some indications on how to move on with your translation career? You can visit these websites and Good luck!
      Also, we’re preparing another blog article on working as a translator, so stay tuned!

  • The article you have published for Translator or Interpreter is really informative as it has helped me so much to know about it profoundly; therefore, keep providing such information.


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