You’ve put years of study and hard work into attaining a degree in the modern languages of your choice. Congratulations! But how do you translate your language major into a career that makes good use of it? That’s precisely what we will show you in this article. Note that while we focus on the good jobs that pay well in the UK, much of this advice will still apply if you seek work overseas.

Working for a translation company in the UK

Can I get paid to translate? You certainly can – even without experience. Working for a translation company is an obvious starting point for many graduates with language skills on their CV, and many translation companies are happy to trial newbie translators.

Working in translation also gives you the option to choose your hours, your working schedule, and usually your working location. If you don’t fancy a daily commute, you can do the work from your home office, your sofa, your bed – whatever works best for you – all by finding a good translation company. Some even offer translation internships while you study to gain more experience and real-world applications from your modern languages degrees.

What makes a good translation company? Look for one that has positive reviews online from both clients and translators, and one that has been in business for a long time. Check out the agency’s payment terms too, to ensure you know precisely what you will be paid and when.

As we delved deeper into this subject, we met Jerica Amores, the head of global human resource and vendor management from Tomedes, a remote-first translation agency that has served UK and EU-based companies since 2007. Over the 15 years, Tomedes’ database contains 40,000 translation and localization vendors.

“On a daily basis, we receive around 500-700 applications. Part of our day-to-day operations is to recruit and qualify professional translators with a good track record, positive reviews, and certifications. They must have successfully completed the recruitment and assessment processes before working as a vendor for Tomedes,” Jerica explained.

Their five-part assessment includes a digital footprint check, paper screening, phone interview, translation test, and reference/background check covering the evaluation for translation competence, linguistic and textual competence, research acquisition and processing competence, cultural competence, technical competence, and domain competence. 

She continued, “We are no longer just living in the digital era, the age of AI has begun, and translators must be competent in research, information acquisition, and processing. e ability to efficiently acquire the additional linguistic and specialized knowledge necessary to understand the source language content and to produce the target language content is not just for ISO certification but a requirement to remain afloat.”

Jerica stated that besides staying up-to-date with technological advancements, upskilling your translation skill is vital in ensuring that you remain relevant in the global mark. Developing your ability to adapt to your situation quickly will be valuable to your employers.

Many companies entrust their materials to expert translators to ensure that their brand essence is intact and that they connect effectively with their target audience.

Translation and language jobs can be both lucrative and fulfilling, regardless of your experience level.

As you build up your skillset and credibility, you will eventually find yourself better suited for higher-paying roles. Having knowledge and insights into various industries (i.e. medical, legal, scientific, etc.) can also land you a more specialized position.

Building up your experience 

Some of the skills you built up while studying for your degree will help you when it comes to finding your desired language career.

Certain skills, such as being able to type fast, being able to undertake detailed research, and producing work that requires a high degree of attention to detail,will stand you in good stead for launching any successful language degree job.

What most graduates lack when fresh out of the best UK universities for languages are experienced and specialized skillsets. So if you want to make the most out of your language skills on your CV, we got some tips and advice from freelance translators and language specialists so you can fulfill a translation company’s translator qualifications and get better-paid jobs.

While writing this article, we were fortunate to meet three UK-based translators and get their insights on this matter.

For Naomi Porter, a proofreader and translator specialized in German, Spanish, and English languages, one of the most crucial things to consider as a language professional is that you have the qualifications and experience in handling your tasks.

“Try and gain some kind of qualification/experience in a specialist subject area e.g. medical translation, creative translation. It could be a qualification in a specialist subject area e.g. an MA in Technical translation or a copywriting course to help you with marketing translation, or it could be experienced from a previous career or hobby. e.g. previous experience working for a bank makes for a great specialism in financial translation or having a niche hobby such as rock climbing could get you to work in that area,” Noami said.

As for Phirun Lap, who is a UK-based translator that specialized in English and Khmer (Cambodian) languages, there are three things that all aspiring translators should know.

“You should research and develop target topic requirements. Being proactive and always reliable to clients and agencies. Also, always look for an abe open to more opportunities,” Phirun explained.

Another UK-based translator agrees with Phirun, Midori Watanabe, a translator specialized in English and Japanese, stating that it’s vital to keep learning about your target and source language.

“Communicate with other linguists, like on LinkedIn, who can give you tips and advice. I can’t translate for medical, legal, or technical industries. But I do translate for many industries as long as the text is not too difficult for me. This has helped me learn more about an industry and allowed me to specialize in certain specific matters,” Midori explained.

It’s enough to have a skill and then wait for opportunities to come to you. From what we gathered from Phirun, Midori, and Jerica, being a “go-getter” is essential to succeed as a freelance translator.

As such, regardless of the type of career that you are ultimately aiming for, it is a good idea to write your resume and start building up some experience to include it as soon as possible. You can actively do this while job hunting by undertaking translation internships and freelance work through a reputable online platform. Upwork, for example, has 4,447 listings of jobs requiring a language degree at the time of writing.

Decide which career will suit you best

While you are building up your experience, it is time to put thought into what job you can do with a degree in modern languages that would suit you best.

There are a lot of variables here. For example, would you prefer to work freelance and/or as a digital nomad, or would you rather be office-based, working for a single company with all the benefits associated with that (sick pay, holiday pay, etc.)?

When looking for jobs for language graduates, pending time working out what you want to work as from the outset, before simply falling into a role through happenstance, means you are a lot more likely to achieve what you actually want – or at least to take the first steps on the path to achieving a language career. That said, let’s look at some jobs you can get with a language degree that will make the most of your skills and qualifications.

  1. Jining an in-house translation team

Some large international businesses employ their own, in-house translation teams. If you want to work as a translator but also want the benefits associated with being employed full-time, this could be a sensible career choice.

  • Working as an interpreter

If your language skills on CV are more suited to speaking than writing, it is worth exploring careers in interpretation. Interpreting another language is a highly skilled undertaking, as it requires not only knowledge of two languages but also the ability to process information entering your brain in one language and convert it into another language in real-time, all without losing any of the meaning of what is being said. The interpreter‘s salary in the UK is £26,000 to £42,000 annually.

If you have never tried interpreting before, start by listening to a radio program, podcast or TV show and trying to deliver a real-time interpretation of what you are hearing. It does take practice, so don’t expect to be a flawless interpreter immediately. However, this kind of practice should at least give you an idea of whether working as an interpreter could be something you enjoy.

  • Becoming a language teacher

Another job you can get with a foreign language degree in the UK is to become a teacher. A range of funding and support options are available for those looking to get into teaching. Also, the fact that you have to study to become a teacher can be a nice bridge between university and the world of work.

The average salary of teachers in the UK was £42,358 in 2021, while new teachers’ salaries range from £25,714 to £32,157. Teachers also enjoy many more weeks off than come with most roles. Obviously, enjoying working with children is a prerequisite!

Also, having a foreign language degree can make you an excellent English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher to those whose native language is the one you have studied. In the UK, particularly with high immigrant populations like London, Birmingham, and Manchester. However, the teaching field can be highly competitive, so if you’re searching for a career, it’s best to stay relevant with your qualifications and improve your chances of finding work.

Working for an international company

Establishing your fledgling language career in the UK means that you have vast cities such as London and Birmingham in which to find employment. They are home to plenty of translation jobs in the UK, with many international companies having headquarters or satellite offices that recruit workers majoring in languages.

The UK as a whole is home to more than 46,000 foreign businesses. These companies span a broad range of sectors, from financial services to the pharmaceutical industry to the tech scene. These sectors would neeed individuals with high levels of language proficiency in their CV. As such, a language career with an international business of this nature can allow you to pursue your non-language-related interests, as well as using your language major.

How to find the perfect language-related role

How quickly and easily you find a job will depend on your approach. The best method is to pursue multiple angles.

That means registering with employment agencies, looking for jobs you can do with a degree in modern languages online, approaching companies directly and/or applying good jobs that pay well in the UK through freelancing platforms. If you’ve built up any contacts in the languages industry while at university, for example by undertaking translation company jobs while studying, be sure to use those to your advantage too.


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