“Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world.”
Italo Calvino, Journalist
Pros and Cons of Working as a Translator
You think about becoming a translator but are not sure whether this is the right career path for you or not?
Good news! This article is exactly for you since I show you all the pros and cons of being a translator in the following chapters.
Translator Job Profile
|Job Description||The job of translators is to translate written or spoken word to foreign languages so that communication between two parties can be facilitated.|
|Salary||$48,000 per year on average, most translators make between $38,000 and $63,000 per year.|
|Job Security||Poor since many translators are replaceable.|
|Job Satisfaction||Decent if you like learning languages.|
|Work-Life Balance||Good since you will have free weekends and holidays.|
|Physically / Mentally Demanding?||Can be mentally demanding.|
|Future Outlook||Poor since many translators will be replaced by intelligent machines in the near future.|
|Requirements||You often need a college degree for becoming a translator.|
Advantages of Working as a Translator
- You can work in many different industries
- Translators can work with many different people
- You can often work from home
- Translators have a standard workweek
- Free weekends and holidays most of the time
- You can build a strong business network as a translator
- Good work-life balance for translators
- Being a translator is not that stressful
- You may become famous as an interpreter
- Translators can work indoors
- You can avoid physical work as a translator
- You may be able to make some additional money on weekends
- Working as an interpreter can also help you in your private life
You can work in many different industries
One advantage of being a translator is that you can work in many different industries.
As long as you work for big corporations that are globally oriented and do business with companies in many different countries, translators will always be needed to manage client relationships and to guarantee long-term success for both parties.
Hence, especially if you speak languages like Chinese that are high in demand and that not many other people master, chances are that you can work in several different industries and fields.
Translators can work with many different people
Thanks to your job as a translator, you will also be able to meet many different people along the way.
You will not always work for one person, but your expertise will be needed in several different departments and this means that you have to work with many different personalities and character types.
While this can be demanding since you will always have to adjust to those new people and their strengths and weaknesses, it can also be exciting since you will be challenged on a regular basis and will never know exactly how your workday will look like.
You can often work from home
Another upside to working as a translator is that you can often work remotely.
This means that you can work from home or from another place you like more than your office.
While many other people have to be physically present in person when they carry out their jobs, it often doesn’t matter for you as a translator since you can do your work in a completely remote fashion most of the time.
If something is unclear, you can just phone your boss or your clients from wherever you want as long as you have a good internet connection and proper phone reception.
In turn, you will be much more flexible to manage your professional and private life compared to a person who has to commute to work every day.
You can also save lots of time on commuting and will not get stuck in traffic jams like many other people do every day.
Translators have a standard workweek
You will also not work that many extra hours as an interpreter.
Sure, there may be busy times where you may have to work a little bit more than 40 hours a week.
However, in the big picture, you will work less than investment bankers and most other people who work in demanding jobs.
Most of the time, you will have a regular 9 to 5 job and can meet up with your friends after work while many other people still have to work late in the evening and just don’t have this luxury.
Free weekends and holidays most of the time
Another benefit of working as an interpreter is that you will also have free weekends and holidays.
While you might take this for granted, there are many people out there who have to work during these times.
For instance, a train driver will often be at work on Saturdays and Sundays as well as on national holidays since people will still have to commute by train to get from A to B.
As a translator, you will not have to work during those unpleasant times and can enjoy your leisure with your family and your friends instead.
You can build a strong business network as a translator
Since you will work with many different people, you can also build a strong business network as a translator in the long run.
If you know what good networking is all about and you can also convince people that you provide value to their lives, chances are that you will be able to become friends with many influential people and this can greatly help you in various parts of life.
For instance, if you want to quit your translator job one day, you may be able to work for someone you got to know through your career as a translator.
Sure, building a strong business network takes time. Yet, if you do it right and on a regular basis, chances are that you can greatly benefit later on in your life.
Good work-life balance for translators
Interpreters also benefit from a pretty good work-life balance in general.
Since they don’t have to work that many extra hours and have free weekends and holidays most of the time, most translators are pretty happy with their work-life balance.
In fact, translators often have plenty of leisure to spend on the things they like more than work and becoming a translator can therefore be suitable for you in case leisure is more important to you than money and you want to work to live rather than live to work.
Being a translator is not that stressful
Many translators also report that their job is not that stressful.
Sure, from time to time, they may have lots of work to do in a rather short period of time.
Yet, most days are pretty relaxed and you will have more than enough time to do your work.
Especially once you become more experienced and have learned your craft, chances are that you will not suffer from that much stress anymore and that you can enjoy your time at work without having to worry about excessive pressure.
You may become famous as an interpreter
Some interpreters are even seen on TV on a regular basis and many people recognize them in public.
Sure, this is only a small minority of translators who make this path.
Yet, if you are willing to work hard on it and also build the right connections early on in your career, you may also get to this point sooner or later.
Hence, a career as a translator may also be suitable for you in case you want to be in the spotlight and want to be recognized by people when you walk down the streets even during your leisure.
Translators can work indoors
Another benefit of being a translator is that you can work indoors.
You might think that this is just the normal way people do their jobs.
Yet, there are still many people in society who have to work outdoors under extreme conditions.
For instance, a construction worker will have to work outdoors to repair our streets or to fix many other things.
It doesn’t matter whether it is hot or cold outside, they just have to do their jobs.
In contrast, as an interpreter, you will be able to work indoors and enjoy a rather cozy atmosphere while many people don’t have this luxury and likely want to change places with you, at least on days with bad weather on which working outdoors can be a real challenge.
You can avoid physical work as a translator
Becoming a translator can also be great for you in case you don’t want to work in a physical manner.
While some people like hands-on work, others just do everything to avoid it and if you belong to the second group, you should go for a job that enables you to work with your mind rather than with your hands.
In such a case, working as a translator can be great since you will simply not have to do any physical work at all apart from typing words into your computer.
In turn, you will likely also not suffer from physical health problems early on in your life like many other people who work in physically demanding jobs do.
You may be able to make some additional money on weekends
If you are really good at what you are doing and also have a strong network, chances are that you will also be able to make additional money from side gigs.
For instance, you could just work some hours in a second job on weekends or you may work some hours after finishing your day job to make translations for other clients.
Especially if you command a language that most other people don’t master, chances are that you will get many jobs and that you can make significant money on the side while still working in your regular job.
Working as an interpreter can also help you in your private life
You can also greatly benefit from working as a translator in your private life.
For instance, if you want to go on vacation in a foreign country, you will have a big advantage since you will have some knowledge of the local language and it will be quite easy for you to communicate with locals and to navigate through different cultures in general.
Moreover, locals are often also much more welcoming if you speak some words of their language since they see that you took some effort in this regard.
In turn, it will also be much easier to make new friends during your vacation trips.
As you can see from the previous discussion, there are indeed many advantages that come along with being a translator.
Yet, there are also many issues related to a career as an interpreter that I want to show you in the next chapter.
Disadvantages of Being an Interpreter
- Translators don’t make that much money
- You may need a second job
- You will be replaceable as a translator
- Translators have a low social standing
- Old-age poverty may be a problem
- Questionable future job prospects
- Many jobs will be lost due to machine learning in this industry
- You may get bored as a translator in the long run
- You need a college degree
- Student loan debt may become a problem
- You will not learn many hard skills during your career
- Many translators only have short-term contracts
- You have to stare at a computer screen for most of your workday
- Limited promotion opportunities
Translators don’t make that much money
One problem with being a translator is that you will simply not make that much money from what you are doing compared to dentists and many other people who make significantly more money on average.
Sure, it will be enough to cover your bills in most regions.
Yet, you will often live from paycheck to paycheck without being able to save and invest money for bad times that may come along sooner or later.
Consequently, you may also get into serious trouble in case you get certain diseases since you will often not be able to afford proper treatment as a translator.
You may need a second job
Especially if you live in expensive regions where living costs are high and you want to afford some luxury, you may even be able to work in a second job.
Also if you want to buy a home, this will only be possible if you work in two jobs since the salary of your translator job will not be enough, especially if your partner doesn’t earn good money either.
Hence, if money and luxury are really important to you and you don’t want to work in a second job, you should probably go for a different career path instead.
You will be replaceable as a translator
Another downside of becoming a translator is that you will just be replaceable pretty easily.
In fact, many translators who only speak the most common languages will not have any job security at all since many other people could do the job.
Many translating jobs are also outsourced to low-wage countries like India since people in those countries are willing to work at much lower costs compared to someone in high-wage countries like the US.
Therefore, if job security is really important to you and you want to work in your job for quite a long time, you should consider working in a different field instead.
Translators have a low social standing
You should also not expect that you are admired the same way as doctors, lawyers or professional athletes as a translator.
In fact, translators have a rather low social status and many people will secretly think that your job is not that special and that you should have learned something more exciting.
Even your family and friends may not understand why you want to become a translator.
Hence, make sure that you are ready to deal with snarky comments in this regard and that you are able to deal with those things in an emotionally mature manner.
Old-age poverty may be a problem
Since you will not earn that much money from your translator job, chances are that you will also not be able to set aside enough money to save for retirement.
In turn, many translators will suffer from serious old-age poverty and will no longer be able to pay their rents and other basic expenses when they finally quit working at retirement age.
Questionable future job prospects
While translators who command exotic and difficult languages will likely also be needed in the future, translators who don’t have those special skills will have a hard time finding jobs in the future since the space will simply be quite crowded and translators will no longer be needed in certain many branches.
Many jobs will be lost due to machine learning in this industry
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also make many translators obsolete in the future.
In a few years, machines will likely be intelligent enough to replace interpreters and to do their work.
Since machines are usually cheaper and more reliable than humans, you will have a hard time competing in this environment as a translator.
You may get bored as a translator in the long run
Another disadvantage of working as a translator is that it can become really boring in the long run.
Sure, in the beginning, you may be happy to work in this field.
Yet, after a few years, you will often no longer be that excited and may want to go for a different career path instead.
Hence, before deciding for becoming a translator, make sure that you really have an interest in learning new languages and in applying them on a daily basis since you will likely not get happy with what you are doing otherwise in the long run.
You need a college degree
Many employers also demand a college degree from you if you want to work as a translator for them.
This means that you will have to go to college for years and will also have to spend significant money on tuition and other college expenses.
Thus, make sure that a career as a translator is really that important to you that you are willing to make this huge time and financial commitment.
Student loan debt may become a problem
In our current state of the world, many college students also take on enormous amounts of student loan debt to finance their degrees.
While this might not be problematic for lawyers and doctors, it can bring you into a lot of trouble as a translator since you will simply not earn that much and paying off your student loan debt will take you many years or even decades.
You will not learn many hard skills during your career
While you may be able to master some languages as a translator, you will not learn that many other valuable skills along the way.
For instance, while a construction worker will learn many new skills that most other people don’t learn during the course of his career, you will not progress that much and will therefore also have a pretty hard time switching fields in case you want to work in a different industry one day.
Many translators only have short-term contracts
Another downside of being a translator is that you will often also only have short-term contracts.
While people who work in other jobs will often have reliable long-term contracts, you will often have to search for work as a translator and this can be quite annoying and also emotionally challenging since you can never be sure that you will make enough money to cover your bills in the future.
You have to stare at a computer screen for most of your workday
As a translator, you will also do most of your work with your computer.
While this may enable you to avoid physical work, it doesn’t mean that sitting in front of a computer screen all day long is not exhausting.
In fact, many people who work in these jobs develop mental problems sooner or later since it is just unnatural for humans to work in such an environment all day long.
Limited promotion opportunities
You will also not have that many promotion options as a translator.
Sure, you may get a raise from time to time, yet you will still do similar work as you did when you started your career even decades ago.
Hence, don’t expect great career opportunities in this field since you will most probably be disappointed in this regard.
Top 10 Being a Translator Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Being a Translator Pros||Being a Translator Cons|
|Translators often have regular workweeks||Translators don’t make good money|
|You can work with many different people||You will be replaceable|
|You can build a strong network||Many jobs will be lost in the future|
|Teleworking will be possible||Old-age poverty is a problem|
|Translators don’t work on weekends||You may need a second job|
|You have a pretty good work-life balance||You need a college degree|
|Translators can avoid physical work||Many translators take on student loan debt|
|You can work indoors||Limited promotion options for translators|
|Can also help your for your private life||Hard to switch fields|
|Translating jobs are not that stressful||Translators have rather low social status|
Should You Become A Translator?
Now that you got all the advantages and disadvantages of being a translator, you should take your time and evaluate all the pros and cons so that you can decide whether a career as a translator is suitable for you or if you rather want to go for a different job instead.
If you still want to be an interpreter, you should also have a look at salaries, job prospects, future outlook, work-life balance, educational requirements, duties and job satisfaction of translators.
Also make sure to check out the following articles:
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.
This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.
Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.
I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.
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