With Houston’s ethnically and racially diverse culture, it’s no surprise that there is a large demand for translators and interpreters across a variety of professional fields.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of translators and interpreters is expected to grow 46 percent by 2022. On average, the entry-level salary is $22 per hour and the median salary is approximately $45,000 a year. Salaries vary according to candidates’ levels of specialization, credentials and experience.
The best way to pursue a career as a professional translator or an interpreter is by becoming licensed or certified. Translation candidates should seek certification with the American Translators Association.
Legal interpreters can get certified as federal court interpreters with the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination, or as Texas licensed court interpreters through the Judiciary Branch Certification Commission.
To become a medical interpreter, candidates may obtain a national certification through the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters or through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.
The University of Houston’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a 32-week English to Spanish translation certificate program at its main campus. The first 16 weeks cover core fundamentals of translation and theory, and the second 16 weeks focus on a specialized area of students’ choice such as medical or business translation.
UH’s program serves dual purposes of preparing students for a career in translation as well as preparing them to take the ATA certification exam. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in communications, modern languages, education or a related area, or have at least three years of translation or interpretation experience. Candidates also must have native or near native-speaker proficiency in English and Spanish.
“Job opportunities for certified translators are in demand, especially for the region we are in,” said Dmitry Vishnevetsky, program coordinator, University of Houston School of Continuing and Professional Studies. “Since UH’s program is still rather new, we are evaluating engineering/oil and gas and legal specializations for sustainability. Services in these fields are continuing to grow.”
Houston Community College’s international business program offers Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board-approved translation and interpretation courses. Students receive 32 semester credit hours and an advanced technical certificate upon completion of the program, which is three semesters.
This certificate qualifies graduates for translation and interpreting positions in business, energy and health care, and in the legal system. The prerequisite is an associate or bachelor’s degree, and students must have the equivalent of a college-level proficiency in two languages.
“Just because someone knows two languages doesn’t mean he or she can translate,” said Natalia Noland, Ph.D., professor of English and program chair, translation and interpretation, Houston Community College – Northwest. “There are specific techniques we use to target language, and students learn intercultural communication in the process.”
Both HCC’s and UH’s programs are supported by members of the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association, a non-profit association that offers professional development events for translating and interpreting agencies, as well as freelance interpreters and translators.
“People who are bilingual have a head start if considering a translation or interpretation career, but they must understand that this is not enough – they must be willing to spend time studying terminology that will apply to their fields of specialization and stay up to date with new technology and procedures,” said Sandra Dejeux, president, HITA, and owner, SD Translations.
“Houston is a multi-cultural city; many business negotiations take place here and oftentimes, companies need documents translated or negotiations interpreted in a language other than English,” she said. “When professionals hire certified translators and interpreters, they can be sure that their message will get across with carefully chosen words that are we are accurate and precise. There is no risk of any part of the message being ‘lost in translation’ because we are qualified professionals who are able to maintain the register and the meaning of the message.”
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