Career Spotlight: Interpreter

Career Spotlight: Interpreter

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Synopsis: Provide spoken language and sign language interpretations in courtrooms, business conferences, political meetings, and anywhere else people from different countries and cultures come together.

Core Tasks

Language makes business, international relations, and learning possible. But since not everyone uses the same words, phrases, or alphabet, we sometimes need help understanding each other. That’s where interpreters come in. They facilitate understanding between people who do not speak the same language. Translators deal with written words, while interpreters deal with spoken words. 

Working Conditions

Interpreters typically work in offices for large organizations, such as governments, corporations, media outlets, and international organizations such as the United Nations. 


Interpreters work full-time for large organizations, or on a freelance basis. Others work through agencies on short-term contracts. These interpreters usually work for a set amount of time and a set amount of money. 

Full-time starting salaries range from around $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Experienced interpreters may earn between $45,000 and $80,000 a year. The average for all interpreters is likely somewhere between $35,000 and $45,000 a year. Median annual earnings of translators and interpreters were $40,860 in 2009 ($19.65/hour) [source].


It is very difficult to get a job as an interpreter without at least an undergraduate university degree. Interpreters also need to be able to demonstrate fluency in at least two languages, one of which should be one of the official languages of Canada. 

  • Fluency in two or more languages
  • A degree, diploma, or certificate in interpretation or translation
  • Certification is recommended

Related College & University Programs 

  • Translation / Interpretation 
  • Linguistics

Who is Likely to Succeed

Successful interpreters like to work with people in fast-paced environments, enjoy travel as part of their jobs, and have a genuine regard and sensitivity for other people’s cultures and customs and nuances of language. A good memory is also an asset.

Successful translators don’t have to be as proficient in people skills, but must be superb wordsmiths in both English and another language. Of course, the more languages you are proficient in, the better. Asian and Middle Eastern languages are particularly in demand at this time.

Job Outlook - Translator or Interpreter:

The future is promising for translators and interpreters. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts much faster than average job growth for this field through 2018.

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Posted on April 05, 2012