Translation – Job Opportunities
There are many ways to become a translator or an interpreter: for example by starting as a bilingual secretary, or joining a professional association or starting as a volunteer for an organization with multilingual requirements. But it is important to know the translation market before getting into it.
Indeed, future translators and interpreters should have an idea on who may need their services (corporations, government, private companies, etc.) and which languages services are most in need where they live – for instance, in Canada, about 85% of translation firms are located in Ontario and Quebec, and in the USA, there are a lot of employment possibilities in the urban areas like New York and Washington D.C., in particular for interpreters.
It is useful to know the languages that are in demand now and in the future. For example, in a bilingual country like Canada, English and French are the languages that bring around 75% of translation earnings, even if in British Columbia Asian language translation services are in high demand as well. Moreover, being able to know more than two languages is also advantageous. The languages for which demand is strong include the following: Portuguese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish (known as “PFIGS”), Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and a variety of other Slavic and Asian languages.
People who want to work in the translation industry have to choose between being a freelancer or not, and working full- or part-time. Many translators and interpreters are freelancers; this means that they do not have job security. Sometimes they do not work for extended periods of time. Therefore their income may be irregular, in opposition to salaried employees. In the USA, for example, the median hourly earnings are US$17.10 (in 2006) for a salaried translator. For some freelance translators, the earnings vary between US$20 and US$30 per hour. The income may be different depending on various factors like language (for example, earnings are higher if a translator can work in a language in which only few qualified people are able to translate), experience (a translator with many years of translation experience will generally have a better income than a translator who has just graduated), certification, the workplace (someone working for a small translation agency is likely to earn less than someone who is an employee in a larger one), etc.
With advances in technology, some people might think that the translation market is uncertain. Some people assume that the need for translation services in the future will decrease because of technologies like machine translation systems. These systems work very well usually when they are used for a particular field with limited context and vocabulary. However, at this stage, automated translations are not good enough to replace human translators. Additionally, the overall translation market, which forms a part of communication industry, is growing. Even if this is a small and competitive field, there are many job opportunities in specific areas like interpretation, localization, technical translation (especially business services, engineering and manufacturing, information technology, law, medicine, transportation, among others), translation of Web content, etc. Prior to embarking on a career in language services, it is worthwhile to do the research.