Employment Prospects


There are approximately 77,400 translators and interpreters in the United States. Literary translators are employed by publishing companies and authors. Although many translators work for government or international agencies, some are employed by private firms. Large import-export companies often have translators on their payrolls, although these employees generally perform additional duties for the firm. International banks, companies, organizations, and associations often employ translators to facilitate communication. In addition, translators work at schools, radio and television stations, airlines, shipping companies, law firms, and scientific and medical operations. Many companies hire freelance or part-time interpreters to help them translate their Web sites into internationally friendly pages.

Many translators work independently in private practice. These self-employed professionals must be disciplined and driven, since they must handle all aspects of the business such as scheduling work and billing clients.

Starting Out

It is difficult to land top translation jobs because the competition for these higher profile positions is fierce. It's a good idea to develop supplemental skills that can be attractive to employers while refining your translating techniques. The United Nations (UN), for example, employs administrative assistants who can take shorthand and transcribe notes in two or more languages. It also might be useful to develop basic interpreting skills to improve your attractiveness to employers.

Most translators begin as part-time freelancers until they gain experience and contacts in the field. Aspiring translators can contact potential employers directly to learn about job openings, use the resources of their college’s career services office and language department to identify job leads, and network on social media sites such as LinkedIn and at in-person events. 

Advancement Prospects

Translators can advance to supervisory or managerial positions as they develop a reputation for providing high-quality translation services. Those who work for government agencies advance by clearly defined grade promotions. Translators can also advance to become chief translators or reviewers, who check the work of others. Some highly skilled and business-minded translators launch their own translation agencies. 

Tips for Entry

Visit to read The Making of a Literary Translator and Breaking Into Print, among other guides.

Attend the American Literary Translators Association annual conference ( to network and learn more about the field.

Talk to translators about their careers. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers a list of translators at

Search for job listings on these Web sites:,, and

The ATA offers a mentorship program for members to help them break into the field. Visit for more information.