Becoming an interpreter in the UK - is a masters degree worth it/ necessary?
Thread poster: kayeejuliemeck

kayeejuliemeck  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:11
English to Chinese
+ ...
Feb 27, 2017

Hi everyone sorry if this question has been posted before but I'd really appreciate some advice or pointers...

A bit on my background: I am a native Chinese speaker but am also fluent in English (near-native), having lived in the UK for 14 years. Since graduating from university with a BA (History of Art, Cambridge) in 2009 I have worked as an in-house translator/ copywriter/ sub-editor for various companies. I was made redundant 1.5 years ago and since then have been working as a freelance translator. Last year I had my first child (now 5 months old) and I'm considering doing a MA in Translation and Interpreting at Westminster University this September and have in fact already submitted my application. My goal is to become a formally qualified translator and interpreter.

However, as you can imagine, it's a huge financial and time commitment - tuition fees alone cost £7,500 and even though my mum has agreed to look after my son while I'm at uni and my husband will cover my living costs, it really is a massive commitment so I'd like to explore other options...

My questions are:

- Is a master's degree such as this one a prerequisite for getting work as an interpreter?

- Is an MA alone enough to secure work as an interpreter, or will I have to obtain other qualifications?

- I've heard about the Level 3 Community Interpreting course and the Level 6 DPSI course, which cost quite a lot less than a master's and take less time to complete. Do you need an MA in order to do these courses?

Thank you in advance!!


United Kingdom
Local time: 23:11
Serbian to English
+ ...
first thing first Feb 28, 2017

Interpreting and translating are two totally different beasts.
Certainly, there are good interpreters that are also good translators, and vice versa.
But there are also many very good translators who wouldn't want to go anywhere near interpreting, and some that tried or were pushed into interpreting with the result that they vowed to never ever get anywhere close to interpreting!
You need a particular psychological disposition for interpreting - which you either have or don't have.
You need also a lot of knowledge - that is something you can acquire and maintain - but if you don't have the predisposition for it, you won't do much interpreting.
To make a parallel: I know of people who breezed through the training for tourist guide, but the first time they took the mike in front of a bus full of tourists staring at them, just froze. Then got out of the bus and forgot about ever working as tourist guides.

Another aspect you have to take into account is that MOST clients in UK don't pay much - so it's simply not worth investing that kind of money (£7,500) unless you have reasonable chances of getting really good clients [and it is not in "community interpreting" you'll find them] Get hold of few Chinese interpreters member of AIIC and talk to them, that would probably be the best.


Blind Clam  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:11
Spanish to English
+ ...
You need to learn the technique of interpreting Mar 10, 2017

Hi there,

Just a quick reply to mention that interpreting requires very specific techniques e.g. note-taking, listening and talking at the same time (for simultaneous) that you need to be taught and then must practise for several hours a day. I did an MA in Interpreting and Translating at Bath in 2005 and after a year I still didn't feel fully ready to work as an interpreter. I did a few conferences which I found pretty stressful, and eventually moved into translation which is much better suited to my personality (I tend to go blank when in a stressful situation - not ideal in the booth!). So I would definitely say you need to do some kind of interpreting course, otherwise you will never feel well prepared. Perhaps you could find a taster course before making the leap to a full-time MA?

Good luck!!


[Edited at 2017-03-10 09:24 GMT]


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Becoming an interpreter in the UK - is a masters degree worth it/ necessary?

Advanced search

Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running and helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search