Inside Interpreter Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Accessible Immigrant Aid Not Properly Advertised...
The amount of immigrants with no idea how to access necessary programs in the U.S. is astonishing. Typically, the families I deal with are completely clueless as to what forms of help are available to them." (Linguist, Translator; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Arabic And German Languages at University Of Texas At Austin in Texas; completed Bachelor degree

"I was very surprised by the fact that interpreters in New York, can't find work that pays that good. I was in Minnesota and interpreting there is a great job, but it is not as good as a career in New York." (Interpreter; 2013)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Spanish at University Of MN in Minnesota; completed Certificate degree in 2007

"Learn Something New Daily...
I actually declined an offer to work in my chosen field. Instead I decided to go into education. Specifically I work with hearing impaired children in the K-12 educational setting. I go with mainstreamed deaf children and facilitate the communication between them and the classroom teacher. The thing that surprises me is how much I continue to learn everyday. This is a profession where there is a lot of interaction with children. If you love children and want a sense of purpose and know that you are helping someone, this is a good profession. Sign language interpreters are always needed in the educational setting." (Educational Interpreter; 2012)

Career: 28 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, female
School: Studied Psychology at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 1984

"Always More To Learn...
I was surprised at how much I still have to study, there's still so much I have to look up. I really wish there had been classes more focused on kanji, instead I end up teaching them to myself." (Japanese Tutor And Text Translator; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, female
School: Studied Modern Language at PCC in Oregon; completed Associate degree in 2011

"Continuing Education...
I was surprised by the need to continually update my expertise. I constantly have to take new classes and workshops in order to maintain my career. I must take 20 hours of continuing education each year to maintain my career." (Interpreter; 2012)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Foreign Communications at Missouri State University in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Interpreter: "The best things about my job by far is the fact that I can work from home. I love that part because I am saving a lot of money. I love it also because my dog does not have to be in his kennel all day. The worst part of my job is the pay. It does not pay nearly enough given the workload I have. I still love the job even with the bad pay, because it is very exciting to interpret and to be able to help people communicate." (2011)

Educational Sign Language Interpreter: "The best part is when a deaf student is involved in a meaningful discussion with his/her hearing peers and I know that the interpretation process is "working". It's totally rewarding! My worst part is actually a two-way tie. 1) Interpreting humor and music is always difficult and sometimes impossible. 2) Because of the socio-economics of the city I work in there are often problems in these kids' homes that I can do nothing about. Oftentimes the kids' parents don't know sign language so there is no communication in the home. That really frustrates me." (2009)

Career Background


  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Wide Range Of Social And Linguistic Exposure Advisable...
To be a successful interpreter, you should have an interest and some slight experience in more than your target language, to give you a more thorough linguistic comprehension. Some delving into the social work aspect and/or government relations would be helpful regarding people that come from impoverished or at-risk nations." (Linguist, Translator; 2014)

"Great Career But Good Pay Hard To Find...
Interpreting is a wonderful career and I love it, but at the same time if you really want to make money at interpreting, you have to make sure they have good jobs in your area." (Interpreter; 2013)

"Advice For Language Interpreters...
1: You have to learn your own language and your second language very well. 2: You have to study a lot over a long period of time to get all the terminology correct. 3: You have to be ready for the challenge of the career. 4: Depending on where you will be working, you have to be emotionally stable because sometimes the job can be overwhelming and stressful. 5: You have to practice on a regular basis and learn new words all of the time." (Interpreter; 2011)

"Learn About Deaf Culture...
1. You can actually work as an interpreter with either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, but I strongly recommend a bachelor's degree because you need to have such a broad knowledge of topics. For example I complained loudly about having to take college chemistry, but sure enough, I eventually wound up interpreting a chemistry class. If you don't understand it yourself, you can't interpret it. 2. Read as much as you can about deaf culture. We're not only dealing with linguistic issues, we're dealing with huge cultural differences. A good easy-reading book to start with is "Train Go Sorry" by Leah Hager Cohen. 3. Take care of yourself physically. Interpreting is a physically demanding job." (Educational Sign Language Interpreter; 2009)