Career of the Month – September

Interpreter September 2019

Languages are so useful in our increasingly global society – and employees who are fluent in another language are highly sought after.

Interpreters convert the spoken word from one language into another, either face-to-face or remotely.

How to become an interpreter

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • volunteering
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by a professional body


You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in:

  • interpreting studies
  • languages and interpreting
  • translation and interpreting

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Volunteering and experience

You can find voluntary or paid work through councils or other organisations offering community interpreting services.

A community interpreting qualification will help you get work in the community. Local colleges and some universities have more information on this.

Direct application

You may be able to get into this job if you have a non-language degree, providing you’re fluent in English and a second language.

Other routes

You can take a Chartered Institute of Linguists course like the Certificate in Bilingual Skills or the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting to help you to get a job in public service interpreting.

More information

To be fluent, you should:

  • be able to communicate quickly, smoothly and accurately
  • know and understand informal speech, slang and regional differences
  • understand the culture of the country or countries where the language is spoken

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the National Register of Public Service Interpreters to build up your contacts and find work.

Further information

You can find out more about training and working as an interpreter from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • foreign language skills
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • customer service skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to work on your own
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you’ll do

In conference interpreting, you’ll be:

  • working at national and international conferences, lectures and meetings
  • sitting in a soundproof booth listening to the speaker through headphones
  • interpreting speeches at the same time as the speaker and passing on the interpreted version through headsets

In consecutive interpreting, you’ll be:

  • working at smaller business meetings with 2 or more people
  • interpreting after each sentence or passage of speech

In public service interpreting, you’ll be:

  • interpreting for people using legal, health and local government services
  • checking their understanding after each sentence
  • available at short notice for emergency medical or police interviews

Working environment

You could work at a client’s business, at a conference centre, in an office, at a police station, in a court, in a prison or in an NHS or private hospital.

Your working environment: You will probably travel often and it may be emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

You could become a member of a professional association like CIOLInstitute of Translation and Interpreting, or the International Association of Conference Interpreters.

If you’re working in the public sector, you could join the NRPSI.

You could combine interpreting with translating or teaching. You could also move into management.

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