Interpreters and translators can expect much faster than average employment growth over the next decade. Job prospects vary by specialty.
Employment change. Employment of interpreters and translators is projected to increase 24 percent over the 2006-16 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth will be driven partly by strong demand in health care settings and work related to homeland security. Additionally, higher demand for interpreters and translators results directly from the broadening of international ties and the increase in the number of foreign language speakers in the United States. Both of these trends are expected to continue, contributing to relatively rapid growth in the number of jobs for interpreters and translators.
Current events and changing political environments, often difficult to foresee, will increase the need for people who can work with other languages. For example, homeland security needs are expected to drive increasing demand for interpreters and translators of Middle Eastern and North African languages, primarily in Federal Government agencies.
Demand will remain strong for translators of the languages referred to as “PFIGS”—Portuguese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish; Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages; and the principal Asian languages—Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Demand for American Sign Language interpreters will grow rapidly, driven by the increasing use of video relay services, which allow individuals to conduct video calls using a sign language interpreter over an Internet connection.
Technology has made the work of interpreters and translators easier. However, technology is not likely to have a negative impact on employment of interpreters and translators because such innovations are incapable of producing work comparable with work produced by these professionals.
Job prospects. Urban areas, especially Washington D.C., New York, and cities in California, provide the largest numbers of employment possibilities, especially for interpreters; however, as the immigrant population spreads into more rural areas, jobs in smaller communities will become more widely available.
Job prospects for interpreters and translators vary by specialty. There should be demand for specialists in localization, driven by imports and exports and the expansion of the Internet; however, demand may be dampened somewhat by outsourcing of localization work to other countries. Demand is expected to be strong in other technical areas, such as medicine and law. Given the shortage of interpreters and translators meeting the desired skill level of employers, interpreters for the deaf will continue to have favorable employment prospects. On the other hand, job opportunities are expected to be limited for both conference interpreters and literary translators.