The number of people employed in the translation and interpretation industry has doubled in the past seven years, and the number of companies in the industry has jumped 24 percent in that same time period, according to the ATA, citing data from the Department of Labor. Through 2024, the employment outlook for those in the business is projected to grow by 29 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"As the economy becomes more globalized and businesses realize the need for translation and interpreting to market their products and services, the opportunities for people with advanced language skills will continue to grow sharply," said David Rumsey, president of the ATA, adding that the association predicts the largest growth is within contracted positions, giving workers and companies more flexibility.
While salaries within the industry vary, those who specialize in a difficult language can easily bring in six figures annually. The ATA helps connect freelance translators and interpreters with companies including Microsoft, Netflix and Honda, as well as government agencies such as the State Department and FBI, Rumsey said.
Philadelphia-based CETRA Language Solutions and companies like it work with about 1,000 independent contractors in translation services in any given year and recruit on a daily basis. And while there was once a fear that technology would replace humans in the process as demand for services increased, the opposite has happened — it's enhanced their work.
"The overall industry is growing because of the amount of content out there — it's increasing exponentially," said Jiri Stejskal, president and CEO of CETRA. "Technology is helping to translate more content, but for highly specialized content, you need an actual human involved."
But finding successful employment is about much more than just speaking multiple languages fluently. Translators who want to distinguish themselves as professionals have to continue to work and hone their skill sets, the ATA's Rumsey said.
"It's a lifelong practice, and it requires keeping up not only your language skills but your subject matter skills so that you really understand the industries and fields you are working in," Rumsey said.