10 Steps to Become a Professional Interpreter

10 Steps to Become a Professional Interpreter

Are you looking to pursue a career in interpretation and become a professional interpreter? In this comprehensive guide, we will outline the 10 essential steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. From acquiring the necessary skills and qualifications to gaining practical experience, we will cover everything you need to know to kickstart your career in interpretation. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to becoming a successful professional interpreter in no time.

Step 1: Choose the Right Language Combination

When embarking on the journey to become a professional interpreter, the first crucial step is to carefully choose the right language combination. This decision will have a significant impact on your future career prospects and success in the field.

Consider your fluency and proficiency

It is important to assess your fluency and proficiency in the languages you are considering to work as an interpreter. Fluency in both the source language (the language being spoken) and the target language (the language being interpreted into) is essential for effective communication. Make sure you have a deep understanding of the nuances, idioms, and cultural context of both languages.

Research demand for specific language pairs

Before making a final decision on your language combination, it is advisable to research the demand for specific language pairs in the market. Some languages may be in higher demand due to geopolitical factors, international business relations, or migration patterns. By choosing a language combination that is in high demand, you can increase your chances of finding consistent work opportunities.

Evaluate potential earning opportunities

Lastly, consider the potential earning opportunities associated with your chosen language combination. Different languages may command higher rates depending on the complexity of the language, the level of specialization required, and the demand for interpreters in that language pair. Conducting thorough research on the average rates for interpreters in your chosen languages can help you set realistic income goals and plan your career path accordingly.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the right language combination that aligns with your skills, interests, and career goals, setting a strong foundation for your journey to becoming a successful professional interpreter.

Step 2: Obtain the Necessary Education and Training

When embarking on the journey to become a professional interpreter, it is essential to acquire the necessary education and training to hone your skills and expertise in the field. Here are some key ways to obtain the education and training needed:

Enroll in interpreter training programs

One of the most effective ways to gain the essential skills and knowledge required to excel as an interpreter is by enrolling in interpreter training programs. These programs are designed to provide hands-on training, language-specific instruction, and cultural competency to prepare you for the demands of the profession.

Pursue a degree in interpretation or related field

For those looking to establish a solid foundation in interpretation, pursuing a degree in interpretation or a related field can be highly beneficial. A formal education in interpretation can equip you with theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and specialized training to succeed in the field.

Attend workshops and seminars to enhance skills

Continuing education is crucial for professional interpreters to stay updated on industry trends, best practices, and new technologies. Attending workshops and seminars can help you enhance your skills, expand your knowledge base, and network with other professionals in the field. It is a valuable opportunity to learn from experts and improve your interpreting techniques.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience

When it comes to becoming a professional interpreter, gaining practical experience is essential. Here are some ways you can start gaining experience in the field:

Seek internships or volunteer opportunities

One of the best ways to gain practical experience as an interpreter is to seek out internships or volunteer opportunities. Many organizations, such as non-profits, government agencies, and language service providers, offer opportunities for aspiring interpreters to gain hands-on experience. By participating in internships or volunteer work, you can practice your interpreting skills in real-world settings and build valuable connections in the industry.

Work as a freelance interpreter

Another way to gain practical experience as an interpreter is to work as a freelance interpreter. Freelancing allows you to take on a variety of interpreting assignments, which can help you develop your skills and gain exposure to different types of interpretation work. Additionally, working as a freelance interpreter can help you build a reputation in the industry and attract potential clients.

Build a portfolio of successful interpretations

As you gain practical experience as an interpreter, it’s important to build a portfolio of successful interpretations. This can include recordings or transcripts of your work, as well as testimonials from clients or colleagues. Having a strong portfolio can help you demonstrate your skills and experience to potential employers or clients, and showcase the quality of your interpreting work.

Overall, gaining practical experience is a crucial step in becoming a professional interpreter. By seeking internships or volunteer opportunities, working as a freelance interpreter, and building a portfolio of successful interpretations, you can develop your skills, build your reputation, and advance your career in the field of interpretation.

Step 4: Develop Specialized Skills

Focus on specific industries or subject matters

To become a professional interpreter, it’s important to develop specialized skills in specific industries or subject matters. By focusing on a particular field, such as legal, medical, or business interpretation, you can become an expert in that area and provide more accurate and effective interpretations for your clients. This specialization can also help you stand out in the competitive interpretation market and attract more clients who need your expertise in a specific industry.

Master interpretation techniques for different settings

Interpreters often work in a variety of settings, including conferences, meetings, courtrooms, and medical facilities. To excel in these different environments, it’s essential to master interpretation techniques that are tailored to each setting. For example, simultaneous interpretation is commonly used in conference settings, while consecutive interpretation may be more appropriate for legal proceedings. By honing your skills in various interpretation techniques, you can adapt to different settings and provide high-quality interpretations in any situation.

Stay updated on industry trends and terminology

The interpretation industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies, terminology, and trends emerging regularly. To stay competitive as a professional interpreter, it’s crucial to stay updated on industry trends and terminology. This can include attending conferences, taking continuing education courses, and networking with other interpreters to stay informed about the latest developments in the industry. By staying current with industry trends and terminology, you can provide accurate and up-to-date interpretations for your clients and maintain your reputation as a skilled and knowledgeable interpreter.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

Research certification requirements in your region

Before pursuing certification as a professional interpreter, it is important to research the specific requirements in your region. Different certification bodies may have varying criteria for eligibility, such as language proficiency, education level, and experience. By understanding these requirements, you can better prepare yourself for the certification process.

Prepare for certification exams

Once you have a clear understanding of the certification requirements, it is time to start preparing for the exams. This may involve studying language skills, cultural competency, and interpreting techniques. There are often study materials and courses available to help you prepare for the certification exams, so be sure to take advantage of these resources.

Maintain certification through continuing education

Obtaining certification is just the first step in becoming a professional interpreter. To maintain your certification, you will likely need to participate in continuing education activities. This could include attending workshops, conferences, or taking additional courses to expand your knowledge and skills as an interpreter. By staying current in your field, you can continue to provide high-quality interpretation services to your clients.

Step 6: Network and Build Relationships

Join professional interpreter associations

Networking with other professionals in the field is crucial for building relationships and staying updated on industry trends. Joining professional interpreter associations such as the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) or the American Translators Association (ATA) can provide valuable networking opportunities and resources for professional development.

Attend industry events and conferences

Attending industry events and conferences is a great way to network with other interpreters, learn from experts in the field, and showcase your skills. Look for events such as the InterpretAmerica Summit or the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) conference to connect with potential clients and expand your professional network.

Connect with other interpreters and potential clients

Building relationships with other interpreters can lead to collaboration opportunities and referrals. Reach out to fellow professionals through social media, online forums, or local meetups to exchange knowledge and support each other in your careers. Additionally, connecting with potential clients such as international organizations, businesses, and government agencies can help you secure interpreting assignments and grow your client base.

Step 7: Market Yourself Effectively

Create a professional website and online presence

Having a professional website is crucial for showcasing your skills and attracting potential clients. Make sure your website is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and includes a portfolio of your work. You can also include testimonials from satisfied clients to build credibility.

Utilize social media to showcase your skills

Social media is a powerful tool for marketing yourself as a professional interpreter. Create profiles on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to share your experience, expertise, and industry insights. Engage with potential clients and colleagues by sharing relevant content and participating in conversations.

Collaborate with agencies and language service providers

Collaborating with agencies and language service providers can help you expand your client base and gain valuable experience. Reach out to local agencies and offer your services as a freelance interpreter. Building relationships with these organizations can lead to consistent work opportunities and referrals.

Step 8: Improve Language Skills Continuously

Practice regularly to maintain fluency

Consistency is key when it comes to improving language skills. Make an effort to practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing in your target language on a daily basis. This could include conversations with native speakers, watching movies or TV shows in the language, or reading books and articles. By practicing regularly, you will maintain fluency and continue to make progress in your language skills.

Expand vocabulary in specialized fields

As a professional interpreter, you will likely encounter specialized terminology in various fields such as legal, medical, or technical. To improve your language skills, it is important to expand your vocabulary in these specialized areas. Consider taking courses or workshops related to the field you will be interpreting in, and make a conscious effort to learn and memorize relevant terminology. This will help you better understand and accurately interpret conversations and documents in specialized fields.

Seek feedback from native speakers

One of the best ways to improve your language skills is to seek feedback from native speakers. They can provide valuable insights on your pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary usage. Consider joining language exchange programs, hiring a tutor, or participating in conversation groups to regularly interact with native speakers. By receiving feedback and making corrections, you will be able to continuously improve your language skills and become a more proficient interpreter.

Step 9: Stay Professional and Ethical

Adhere to professional standards and code of ethics

As a professional interpreter, it is important to adhere to the industry’s professional standards and code of ethics. This includes maintaining a high level of professionalism in all interactions with clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders. By following these standards, you can ensure that you are providing the best possible service to your clients and upholding the reputation of the interpreting profession.

Maintain confidentiality and impartiality

Confidentiality and impartiality are two key principles of professional interpreting. It is essential to maintain strict confidentiality when working with clients, ensuring that sensitive information is not shared with unauthorized individuals. Additionally, interpreters must remain impartial and unbiased in their work, refraining from expressing personal opinions or judgments during interpreting sessions.

Handle challenging situations with diplomacy

In the course of your interpreting career, you may encounter challenging situations that require tact and diplomacy to navigate. Whether it is managing conflicts between parties, dealing with difficult clients, or handling sensitive topics, it is important to approach these situations with professionalism and grace. By maintaining a calm and composed demeanor, you can effectively resolve conflicts and ensure that all parties involved feel respected and heard.

Step 10: Seek Professional Development Opportunities

Attend training programs and workshops

Continuously expanding your knowledge and skills through attending training programs and workshops is essential for professional interpreters. These opportunities provide valuable insights into industry trends, new technologies, and best practices that can enhance your interpreting abilities.

Participate in mentorship programs

Mentorship programs offer a unique opportunity for professional interpreters to learn from experienced professionals in the field. By participating in a mentorship program, you can gain valuable advice, guidance, and support to help you advance in your interpreting career.

Explore advanced certification options

Obtaining advanced certifications in interpreting can further demonstrate your expertise and proficiency in the field. Advanced certifications can open up new opportunities for career advancement and help you stand out as a professional interpreter. Consider exploring certification options such as conference interpreting, legal interpreting, or medical interpreting to expand your skill set and credibility.


Becoming a professional interpreter is a rewarding and challenging journey that requires dedication, hard work, and continuous learning. By following the 10 steps outlined in this article, you can set yourself on the path to success in the field of interpreting. Remember to practice your language skills regularly, seek out additional training opportunities, and stay up-to-date on industry trends. With perseverance and a passion for language, you can achieve your goal of becoming a skilled and respected interpreter. Good luck on your journey!