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Summary of occupation

Interpreters convert the spoken word from one language to another. They assist people or groups who do not speak the same language to understand each other. They work as an intermediary, either over the phone or in person, between people from diverse linguistic backgrounds. They may also convert the spoken word into sign language for the deaf community, or vice versa.

Interpreters may also convert written documents or audio/visual materials into a different spoken language or sign language. They may also travel with tourist guides to interpret cultural or historical information for foreign tourists.

ANZSCO description: Transfers a spoken or signed language into another spoken or signed language, usually within a limited time frame in the presence of the participants requiring the translation.
Alternative names: Language Interpreter, Linguist Interpreter
Specialisations: Court/Legal Interpreter, Medical Interpreter, Sign language interpreter, Tourism interpreter
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

Interpreters need:

  • fluency in two or more foreign languages
  • excellent communication and public speaking skills
  • the ability to liaise with people from a range of backgrounds
  • to deomnstrate flexibility and adaptability
  • a good memory and concentration
  • accuracy and objectivity
  • the ability to interpret sensitive material in a responsible manner.
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Working conditions

Interpreters work in a variety of locations and situations including courts, medical and welfare facilities, international conferences, and cultural and tourist attractions. They may also work for a range of federal, state or territory government departments that are concerned with immigration, legal issues and law enforcement.

Work hours are often irregular, and this type of work is usually part-time. Interpreters may be required to be on call. Many interpreters freelance. Interpreters may also travel around the State with tourist or business groups

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Salary details

On average, interpreters, classified under social professionals, can expect to earn between $1 250 and $1 499 per week ($65 000 and $77 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As an interpreter develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Intepreters may use a pen and notepad or a laptop computer for portable note taking. When they work at conferences they may work in a booth and use audio equipment such as headphones and a microphone.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a professional interpreter you need to be fluent in the languages and cultures you wish to work in. In Western Australia, this is usually English and another language. Government agencies are a major contractor for these services. To work with government you will require a qualification, typically a Diploma or Advanced Diploma in Interpreting or National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) accreditation to be competitive. You can work as an interpreter without any formal qualifications. However, you are more likely to improve your employment prospects if you have formal qualifications in interpreting or languages other than English.

The NAATI run workshops to assist candidates to prepare for accreditation. You do not need to be accredited by NAATI to work as an interpreter, however, employers, such as government agencies, prefer to employ interpreters who can demonstrate they meet these standards.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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