How Can I Become a Spanish Translator?

Research what it takes to become a Spanish translator. Learn about job skills, career outlook, salary and degree requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

While there's no formal educational background required to work as a Spanish translator, individuals need expert proficiency in the English and Spanish languages. This can be gained through bachelor's degrees and experience. Learn more about the skills commonly needed in this field by reviewing the information in the table below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Training Experience translating Spanish to English is essential
Education Field of Study Spanish, linguistics, interpreting and translating
Key Skills Writing, speaking, interpersonal, concentration
Certification Certification is voluntary, but often pursued
Job Growth (2012-2022)46% (for all interpreters and translators)*
Median Salary (2014) $35,791 annually**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

What Should I Study?

Many translator job openings don't have set educational requirements. However, you must have strong knowledge of the language you want to translate into and the language you want to translate from, in this case Spanish and probably English. While the U.S. Department of State uses the term 'translators' to describe those working with written documents and 'interpreters' for those working with the spoken word, you may be considering either of these options (www.languageservices.state.gov).

You may want to start preparing for a career as a translator by taking Spanish in high school for your foreign language requirement. After you graduate, a bachelor's degree and master's degree program in Spanish or linguistics can be obtained through many colleges. Along with elementary and advanced Spanish, you'll study Spanish literature and conversational Spanish. Linguistics and Spanish grammar help you to understand the construction of the language and how to translate.

If you're interested in interpretation, you'll want to select classes that help you develop the ability to recognize different dialects and vocabulary. Since interpreters need to understand what people are saying in both languages and quickly translate it for the other party, you may find it helpful to take classes focused on developing speaking ability. To work as a document translator, you'll need a solid grasp of grammar and vocabulary, the ability to read detailed texts in both languages and an understanding of technical terms used by specialized fields. You may want to study professional Spanish to learn key terminology used in a variety of fields.

How Should I Gain Experience?

To practice the language, many college programs offer internships or practicums with local organizations. You'll act as an interpreter, while being supervised. Participating in voluntary work around your community may also lead to opportunities speaking Spanish or making Spanish-speaking contacts that may help you hone your comprehensive skills.

You can also consider studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. By immersing yourself in the culture, you'll be forced to learn the language quicker. You'll also learn about that country's culture and learn the dialects of the areas. You should also watch movies and read books in the native tongue.

How Do I Become Certified?

The BLS reports that there is no current national certification that covers Spanish translating. However, the American Translators Association does offer certification as a translator (www.atanet.org). You must have both work experience and college education to sit for this exam. Some medical and judicial fields offer certification in the respective fields.

What Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many companies only hire translators who have three or more years of experience (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com reported in September 2014 that Spanish interpreters and translators earned a median hourly wage of $18. The BLS also noted that 20% of translators and interpreters were self-employed, and employment opportunities were expected to grow by 46% between 2012 and 2022. These statistics, however, are for all translators in general, not specifically those working in Spanish. However, the BLS did note that those with knowledge of Spanish could see good job opportunities with the increase in immigration from Spanish-speaking countries.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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