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Interpreters and Translators Job Outlook

Employment of interpreters and translators is expected to grow 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth reflects an increasingly diverse U.S. population, which is expected to require more interpreters and translators.

Demand will likely remain strong for translators of frequently translated languages, such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Demand also should be strong for translators of Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages and for the principal East Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow rapidly, driven by the increasing use of video relay services, which allow people to conduct online video calls and use a sign language interpreter.

In addition, growing international trade and broadening global ties should require more interpreters and translators. The need to interpret and translate languages in the military should result in more jobs as well.

Computers have made the work of translators and localization specialists easier. However, these jobs cannot be entirely automated. Computers cannot yet produce work comparable to the work that human translators do.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be best for those who have professional certification. In addition, urban areas—especially Washington, DC, New York, and Los Angeles—should continue to provide the largest numbers of employment possibilities, especially for interpreters

Job prospects for interpreters and translators should also vary by specialty and language. For example, interpreters and translators of Spanish should have good job opportunities because of expected increases in the population of Hispanics in the United States. In particular, job opportunities should be plentiful for interpreters and translators specializing in healthcare and law, because of the critical need for all parties to fully understand that information.

In addition, there should be many job opportunities for specialists in localization, driven by the globalization of business and the expansion of the Internet.

Interpreters for the deaf will continue to have favorable employment prospects because there is a shortage of people with the needed skill levels.

Conference interpreters and literary translators will likely face competition because of the small number of job opportunities in these specialties.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition