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Translator

Translators convert the written word from the 'source language' into the 'target language’, making sure that the meaning is the same.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £18,000 to £40,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need to be educated to degree level, and will usually need a postgraduate qualification in translation. 

You must be fluent in one or more languages as well as English, and have knowledge of the culture in the relevant country, usually gained by living and working there.

Relevant degree subjects include:

  • languages – courses which specialise in linguistics or translation may give you an advantage but are not essential
  • combined degrees which include a subject like law or science with languages
An MA or MSc in translation or translation studies, or the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) Diploma in Translation, could increase your chances of employment, especially with international organisations. 

If you’re already fluent in a second language, you may find it useful to have qualifications in a subject which would allow you to take on specialised translating work.

If you have a degree, and can translate 2 EU official languages into English, you may be able to apply for a paid translation traineeship with the European Commission.

The Association of Translation Companies (ATC) has more information on how to become a translator.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to to adapt to different styles and cultures
  • a flair for research
  • discretion and respect for confidentiality
  • the ability to remain neutral and free of bias
  • good IT skills, particularly word processing

3. What you'll do

You could work on a number of subjects and projects, or specialise in a particular area, like:

  • scientific, technical or commercial material
  • legal documents
  • literary work
  • media work
  • educational resources
  • online content

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • reproducing the text clearly, accurately and in the style intended by the author
  • using specialist knowledge, like technical terminology
  • researching legal, technical or scientific terms and consulting with experts to make sure the translation is accurate
  • matching the culture of the target audience
In some large companies you may revise and edit a rough machine translation, created using a computer program. 

You may also use other software like translation memory, together with a dedicated computer assisted translation tool.

4. Salary

Starter: £18,000

Experienced: £30,000

Highly Experienced: £40,000

Freelance translators are usually paid around £75 to £210 or more per 1000 words, depending on the language.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

You’ll usually be office-based and you may work alone for a lot of the time. You may need to visit clients, experts or specialist organisations, but most contact would be by email, phone or post.

You may work abroad for an international organisation.

You could also work for an agency or as a freelance translator. You’ll choose your own hours, and may have to work evenings and weekends.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could start your own translation agency, or move into teaching.

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Last updated: 08 December 2016