If you’re considering a career as a translator or interpreter, we have some good news: there are plenty of opportunities in this field. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers as a translator or interpreter are projected to grow by 18% between now and 2026, which is much faster than average.
One of the most sought-after jobs within the translation industry is that of court interpreter, and with good reason. Court interpreters are an important and integral part of our judicial system, affording witnesses who are not fluent in English the opportunity to express themselves and tell their stories inside the courtroom. In addition to courtroom trials, interpreters are often called upon to interpret in other legal proceedings, such as legal meetings, arraignments, preliminary hearings, or depositions, for example. Interpreters may also be responsible for reading and simultaneously interpreting foreign language documents aloud inside the courtroom. Being an interpreter in this type of environment can be a challenging and demanding career, but one that many linguists also find to be extremely rewarding. As you might have already guessed, it does take some preparation to enter into this field.
Generally speaking, court interpreters must be fluent in the foreign language(s) required by the court, and must also have a strong knowledge of legal terminology and the processes that take place inside the courtroom. While some of this familiarly may come in the form of on-the-job training, courts typically require a certain level of education and experience before they choose the best-qualified individual. Although the exact requirements for court interpreters vary depending on the specific court and location involved, there are certain prerequisites that are typically desirable for anyone interested in pursuing this challenging career:
Most courts won’t consider candidates who don’t hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. Graduates who major in translation studies and/or court interpreting would be considered the most qualified, but several other fields are appropriate as well, such as foreign language majors in Spanish or French, for example.
Obtaining certification from a recognized professional court interpreter program could give you an advantage over other applicants. This type of certification usually provides enrollees the opportunity to take coursework that is directly pertinent to their future careers, such as classes in penal code, court procedures, and simultaneous translation, for example.
It’s the age-old conundrum for college graduates: how do I gain the experience required to get hired? Many courts are looking for experienced court interpreters. If you’re fresh out of college, consider working for a translation company or pursuing volunteer work or an internship that would provide you with the experience that many courts look for in a qualified candidate.
Adapt a flexible attitude when applying for positions
It’s entirely possible that you may have to move or make some concessions with regard to your desired salary in order to break into this profession. When applying for your first job as a court interpreter, remember that getting your “foot in the door” is always somewhat of a challenge, and you may have to relocate or take a salary that is lower than you would like in order to get your first job.
Becoming a court interpreter definitely requires time and effort on the part of the candidate. But many people who already hold these coveted positions will tell you that the challenge and responsibility involved make it all worthwhile. Think of the journey to your goal as a stepwise process, and keep in mind that each step along the way – including education, certification, and the application process – will ultimately lead you to an extremely rewarding career that might very well last a lifetime.