Job Description:

Interpreters change spoken words from one language into another, either face-to-face or remotely.

Job Category:
Professional Services

What you will do:

There are 3 different types of interpreting:

  • conference interpreting
  • consecutive interpreting
  • public service interpreting

As a conference interpreter you could:

  • work at national and international conferences, lectures and meetings
  • listen to a speaker through headphones in a soundproof booth
  • interpret speeches at the same time as the speaker through a microphone and headset

As a consecutive interpreter you may:

  • work in smaller business meetings with 2 or more people
  • interpret after each sentence or passage of speech

As a public service interpreter you could:

  • interpret for people using legal, health and local government services
  • check their understanding after each sentence
  • interpret at short notice for emergency medical or police interviews


You’ll need:

  • foreign language skills
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (leadership skills)
  • the ability to work on your own (drive)
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an interpreter, you need strong language skills and cultural understanding. While there are no specific subjects required for this career, your choice of subjects can certainly prepare you for language and communication work. Here’s a list of helpful subjects and skills:

  1. Languages: The most important skill for an interpreter is fluency in at least two languages. If you’re interested in a specific language pair (e.g., English-Spanish or French-Arabic), focus on studying those languages extensively.
  2. English: Excellent proficiency in English is often required, especially if you plan to work in an English-speaking country. Good grammar and vocabulary are essential.
  3. ICT (Information and Communication Technology): Familiarity with digital tools and translation software can be useful for interpreters, especially for remote or simultaneous interpretation.
  4. Foreign Literature: If your school offers courses in literature from the cultures and languages you’re interested in, it can help you deepen your understanding of language and culture.
  5. History and Geography: These subjects can provide valuable context for understanding the historical and geographical factors that may come up during interpretation.
  6. Social Sciences: Courses in psychology, sociology, or anthropology can help you understand the social and psychological aspects of language and communication.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • volunteering
  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by a professional body


You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in:

  • interpreting studies
  • languages and interpreting
  • translation and interpreting


You can find unpaid or paid volunteering opportunities through local councils and organisations offering community interpreting services.

A community interpreting qualification may help you volunteer as an interpreter in your local community. Colleges and universities may have more information about this.

Direct Application

You may be able to get into this job if you have a non-language degree if you’re fluent in English and a second language.

Career tips

To be fluent in a language, you should:

  • communicate quickly, smoothly and accurately
  • know and understand informal speech, slang and regional differences
  • understand the culture of the country or countries where the language is spoken

Professional and industry bodies

You can join an industry association to help with your professional development and to build up your network of contacts.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 35-40 hours of work. You could be required to work freelance or be self-employed managing your own hours.

You could work at a client’s business, at a conference centre, in an office, at a police station, in a court, in a prison or in a public or private hospital. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.

Career Path & Progression:

You could combine interpreting with translating or teaching. You could also move into the management of interpreting services in the public or private sector.