How To Become A Translator: A Guide For Graduates

As the world slowly becomes one global village, the need for language support has become increasingly essential for businesses around the world. A career in translation can potentially be lucrative and in demand for graduates. In addition, working as a translator can be fulfilling as well, especially if you love working with people from different nationalities. However, if you are like many graduates, you are probably wondering how to go about becoming a translator. That is why we have compiled this guide for you. We have outlined some steps that you should take to get started in your career as a professional translator. 

Make a language choice

Translating involves being fluent in two languages if you are to translate one to the other successfully. In addition to the language that you fully understand, you need to learn a second language. You might want to make a few considerations when deciding on a second language. For starters, consider which language combinations are in demand. Doing simple research online can uncover valuable insights into this. You also need to consider your field of interest. For instance, if you are interested in the medical field, it would be helpful to research which languages are commonly used in that field.

Once you have selected the second language to focus on, you need to find ways to learn the language in depth. Keep in mind that you need to grasp everything about the language including terminologies, grammatical structure, and culture. If you graduated in another course, it can be worthwhile to get another degree in the language of your choice. You might also consider getting a tutor to help you study the language if you don’t want to study at an institution. If you want to study on your own, there are many apps out there that can help you learn and practice different languages. 

Gain industry knowledge

You have the option of working in different fields as a translator. Some of the choices that you have include healthcare and medicine, tourism, government, finance and banking, law, and science among others. In addition to deciding on a second language, you need to decide which fields you are interested in. Again, doing some research can guide you in the fields where demand is high. Moreover, while you can work in multiple fields, it is wise to start with one field and add more as you grow.

After you have decided on the field to focus on, it is important to learn the industry-specific terminologies in the target language. One of the ways you can use it to learn is to look for a course or resource in your field of interest. For instance, if you want to work in the medical field translating to Spanish, look for a medical Spanish course. You can also learn on your own or hire a tutor to help you. Writing down a list of important terminologies that you want to learn about can be a great start. Then, work with your tutor or on your own in finding their equivalent translations in the other language. 

Get Certified

While it is not a requirement to be a certified translator, being certified can set you apart and stamp credibility in your skills to potential employers. You will be required to complete courses and pass exams by the certifying bodies to get certified. Some of the common certifications to consider include:

  • Certified medical interpreter – This certification is from the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). To get this certification, you will be required to demonstrate your knowledge in translating or interpreting from one language to another in the medical field. You have to pass a written and an oral exam to get this certification
  • State court interpreter certification – This is your certification if you want to work in the law field translating court cases. This certification is offered by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) for working in specific states
  • ATA certification – This certification is from the American Translators Association (ATA). It gives you an opportunity to become a certified translator

Familiarize yourself with how translation works

There is more to translation than language knowledge. If you are to become a successful translator, you will need to understand how to work as a translator. For starters, you need to understand the client’s needs before undertaking any project. This requires you to have the skills in asking probing questions and the ability to guide your clients in the best way possible.

In addition, you need to familiarize yourself with translation workflows. Most importantly, understand the key players that are likely to be impacted by your work. These include editors, revisers, terminologists, translation or localization managers, other translators, and the like. Understanding how your work impacts their work can help you in completing your work as required.

Another area of interest is knowing the tools of trade used in translation. To begin with, you need to understand the different computer programs that translators use. Some common ones include memoQ, Memsource, and Wordfast. In addition, learn how to use translation equipment especially if you want to succeed in simultaneous translation. Some of this equipment includes transmitters, receivers, interpreter consoles, and headphones. Moreover, if you want to own translation gadgets for your future translation business, Williams Sound can provide you with the best in the market. You will get access to quality and durable translation equipment that guarantee great functioning with a limited lifetime warranty.

Work on gaining some experience

Just like any other career, you will need to have some experience before getting work with a meaningful salary. Besides, showing that you have experience in your resume can be instrumental in finding work in the future. After gaining the necessary skills, start looking for ways to gain some experience in translation. One of the ways to start getting work experience is to look for freelancing gigs. Look in popular freelancing sites such as Upwork and Fiverr for opportunities to put your skills into practice.

Another great way to gain experience is to volunteer your skills. Check local charities, schools, and organizations where you can volunteer. You also have the option of looking for internship opportunities in the field of your interest.

Connect with other translators

Staying up to date with the industry is key to becoming a successful translator. It is important to understand the latest developments to succeed in the industry. And, connecting with fellow translators is a good way to do this. In addition, networking with other translators can be a great way to find work opportunities.

Social media is a great place to find translator communities. Look for groups that focus on translation and helping translators succeed. You can also browse the web to find online communities. For instance, is a community for language professionals. Create your profile and start networking with fellow translators and look for jobs as well. Lastly, look for national and local professional bodies that you can belong to.

Stay competitive

They say that change is inevitable. And, that is true for every field including translation. It is vital to make sure that you remain competitive even as the industry and clients’ needs evolve. As said earlier, staying updated on new developments is paramount. In addition to networking with others in the industry, look for more ways to stay on top of new developments.

One is to follow translation blogs from reputable professionals. You can also listen to podcasts that focus on languages and translations. Most importantly, commit to keeping your knowledge at its best. Keep investing in courses, join webinars, and participate in conferences. In addition, invest in the latest technologies that can help you do the best work.


Choosing a career in translation is a great way to enjoy a fulfilling and exciting career. Besides, as language needs increase around the world, you can be assured of a lifetime career. If you have no idea where to start, the above guide gives you the necessary steps that you need to take to become successful.