How to Become a Translator?

Are you thinking of becoming a Translator or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Translator, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Translator job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Translator

A translator is a person who converts written words from one language to another to make sure the content, ideas, and messages remain accurate no matter who reads them. They typically specialize in at least two languages but can be fluent in more. These professionals work in a variety of different industries, from government, business, and medicine. If this career sounds exciting to you, follow these six steps to become a translator:

Learn a language.

To be a translator, you need to speak, write, and understand at least two languages. One is likely the native language you grew up speaking. Consider choosing a second language of which you already have experience. If you grew up in a bilingual household or environment, you may already have some proficiency with a second language. Otherwise, consider languages you've encountered in school or one from a culture that interests you.

Take classes, use apps, or get tutoring from someone who speaks the second language fluently. It's important to know the vocabulary, but also understand grammar, syntax, and cultural awareness of both your native language and any foreign languages you pursue.


Pursue training.

Being fluent in a language doesn't always mean you're prepared to translate. Pursuing specialized training can help you learn more of the intricacies of the profession beyond converting words from one language to another. Organizations like the American Translators Association (ATA), ALTA Language Services, and Future Learn offer courses and programs to help you prepare.


Earn a certification.

You don't have to earn a certification to work in translation, but it can show potential employers that you have the skills needed for a translator job. ATA offers certification in 29 different languages to earn their Certified Translator distinction. Also, consider earning certifications in the field where you choose to work. For example, if you plan to work in medical translations, research other available certifications for that industry.


Take a test

Similar to earning a certification, you can take a voluntary language proficiency test to demonstrate your skills to potential employers. One of the most recognized tests is the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages also offers proficiency tests.


Research the industry.

Once you choose an industry where you'd like to work, study that field in-depth. Familiarize yourself with industry-specific terminology in both your languages to understand how the references and context may differ in each one. For example, if you intend to work in finance, you may learn how to refer to different financial formulas and principles to better translate them from one language to the next.


Acquire work experience.

Putting your skills to work can help you find a more permanent position in translation. Consider freelance and contract opportunities both in and out of your desired field to have the experience to add to your resume. You may also accept volunteer work for places like community organizations or internships to practice in the field.

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Related Careers in the Media & Communications Industry

Interested in other Media & Communications careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Translator skills. Discover some of the most common Translator career transitions, along with skills overlap.

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6% transitioned to Editor