Career advice: how can I start a career in interpreting (UK based)?
Thread poster: Richard J W

Richard J W
United Kingdom
Jan 20

I volunteered as a Russian-English interpreter for a Chernobyl children charity a few years ago and have since wanted to start a career as an interpreter. My L1, L2 & L3 are English, Italian and Russian respectively and I have a degree in accounting & finance, so would prefer to work in the business sector. Over the past few years, I've been travelling/working abroad to improve my language skills and also got some C1 certs: CILS for Italian and TORFL for Russian. However, I know that with my cur... See more
I volunteered as a Russian-English interpreter for a Chernobyl children charity a few years ago and have since wanted to start a career as an interpreter. My L1, L2 & L3 are English, Italian and Russian respectively and I have a degree in accounting & finance, so would prefer to work in the business sector. Over the past few years, I've been travelling/working abroad to improve my language skills and also got some C1 certs: CILS for Italian and TORFL for Russian. However, I know that with my current qualifications and experience I am still far from being an interpreter.

A lot of websites/articles on interpreting suggest gaining a qualification in interpreting, so I've been looking at Masters and PgDips programmes in interpreting. They're quite an investment and it's hard to justify the cost when there's no guarantee that I would find a job afterwards. Though, on the flip side, I know universities have career teams which would help me to get my foot in the door. I also considered volunteering to gain experience and then working with agencies until I find private clients. Whilst this would be cheaper in the short term, I don't know how many companies are willing to take on unpaid volunteers to do real interpreting work i.e. not a tea boy, and I'm unsure if it would take me where I want to go.

So, I'm at a bit of a loss. I'm currently back in the UK, I have an online job which pays the bills and time to dedicate to my education/professional development. I would like to know where to start in all this. What qualification should I do? Is a qualification necessary or can I gain experience through volunteering and then start applying for jobs? Is there another option that I'm overlooking? I'm open to any suggestions.

Thanks.
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Jan Rausch  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:27
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...
MA Jan 21

Hi Richard,

Getting established as an interpreter isn't easy and it takes quite a while. But if you want to do it and works as a businness/conference interpreter (which is what I do), these days there really is no other option than doing an MA. The MA will not get you any work in itself, but without one I doubt you would be seen as a credible candidate for 'proper' jobs. Apart from that joining professional associations like CIoL and ITI and networking will help.

Best,<
... See more
Hi Richard,

Getting established as an interpreter isn't easy and it takes quite a while. But if you want to do it and works as a businness/conference interpreter (which is what I do), these days there really is no other option than doing an MA. The MA will not get you any work in itself, but without one I doubt you would be seen as a credible candidate for 'proper' jobs. Apart from that joining professional associations like CIoL and ITI and networking will help.

Best,

Jan
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Vadim Kadyrov
Richard J W
Virginia Vázquez Vaccaro
 

DZiW (X)
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Alternatives: foreign language as minor Jan 22

Unlike blue-collars, in a modern white-collar business they require a reliable and worthy specialist -- (1) a dedicated scholar/technician/adviser in some fields with (2) biz awareness and (3) foreign language skills.

As far as negotiations is the key and most "pure" translators (and many interpreters) have no idea about the business, they cannot negotiate favorable terms, losing every deal. Why, judging by rates and payment terms, it seems most freelancers don't considered themsel
... See more
Unlike blue-collars, in a modern white-collar business they require a reliable and worthy specialist -- (1) a dedicated scholar/technician/adviser in some fields with (2) biz awareness and (3) foreign language skills.

As far as negotiations is the key and most "pure" translators (and many interpreters) have no idea about the business, they cannot negotiate favorable terms, losing every deal. Why, judging by rates and payment terms, it seems most freelancers don't considered themselves an equal business party!

So you could either provide a special turn-key solution in a niche, diversifying into rewriting, copywriting, transcreation, mentoring, and consulting, for example, or get a real (in-demand) specialty and do the job/run the biz in a foreign language too.

Indeed, you could think about opening an agency or something, but it requires planning and solid hands-on exp (about 1-3 yrs) to learn the ropes as an employee or a freelancer.

Good luck)
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