Interpreter Job Market Trends

The interpreter job market is one of the least stable, highly fluid, of all service markets. The need for interpreters fluctuates constantly, although some languages experience a significant surge in demand for sustained periods. The career situation for interpreters requires a thorough understanding of the job market, the employment types, and reliable income options.

The US interpreter employment market is driven by services like courts and government, trying to match interpreters to their needs. The previous major interpreter market in these areas was for Spanish speakers. That's now been largely obliterated by bilingual services and large numbers of bilingual speakers. The employment market is a real "market" in the sense of demand, and the big numbers of bilingual speakers have reduced the market demand for individuals. Spanish interpreters are now more likely to be in demand at expert level in business, science, technical writing and other professional fields than the baseline interpreter marketplace.

Language Market

The new market for interpreters is mainly for Asian languages like Gujarati (Indian), Urdu (Indian), Korean and Chinese dialect speakers, and others like  Vai (West African) which are primarily for first generation migrants. US courts alone may have to deal with up to 60 different languages. Employment and career markets are spread over a large area of the population. Interpreters can definitely get occasional work quite regularly, but it's not really career material. 

Even technology is affecting the interpreter job market. Some new technologies can provide instant access to interpreters in up to 40 languages for hospital patients. You can see how the "market spread" operates. 

Career Options for Interpreters

These are broad spectrum career paths, and interpreters can develop their roles considerably. Many interpreters also require academic qualifications in their various fields. Interpreter careers are focused on regular salaried jobs to whatever extent is possible. The basic career paths are:

  • Government
  • International organizations
  • United Nations
  • Diplomatic services
  • Corporate roles at all levels
  • Media
  • Language teachers
  • Technical writers
  • Trade

The Job Itself

Interpreter jobs can be seriously undervalued as career assets. The natural career path of a trained professional interpreter provides a lot of additional job and career options. Interpreters may have multiple roles, all of which add considerably to their career mobility. The interpreter role can also develop a career. It's often the basis of a whole professional career track. An interpreter in media, for example, can progress in a variety of fields, including journalism, business, media production, management and sales.

A part time interpreter, with some application of portable skills and qualifications paid for by the interpreter job, can work up to a good corporate or government position. That's becoming a lot easier as global trade and multiculturalism accelerate the employment market for interpreters, and open up many more job options.

If you're considering a career as an interpreter, don't limit yourself by sticking  to the narrow definition of the job. Consider the areas in which it can add value to your other interests and aspirations. Interpreter skills add considerable value in any occupation. Whatever you to do for a living, you have an asset which can earn you more income and more job opportunities.