How to become an Interpreter

Interpreters use their knowledge of languages and cultures to convert a spoken or signed language into another spoken or signed language, usually within a limited time frame and in the presence of the participants who need to communicate. Interpreters usually specialise in a particular language combination (French and English, for example) and may also specialise in a particular subject area, such as commerce, law, health, science, technology or welfare.

Personal requirements of a Interpreter

  • Excellent command of English
  • Fluency or ability to learn at least one other language
  • Initiative and research skills
  • Good concentration skills
  • Good memory
  • Able to maintain confidentiality
  • Understanding and acceptance of different cultures

Education & Training for a Interpreter

To become an interpreter you must be fluent in another language as well as English. You will also need to complete a VET or university qualification. Entry to VET qualifications or degrees usually requires you to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Additional Information

After completing an appropriate qualification or gaining significant experience you may be able to gain NAATI accreditation. The NAATI levels of accreditation range from Paraprofessional Interpreter and Professional Interpreter to Conference Interpreter and Conference Interpreter (Senior). Both Conference Interpreter accreditations require the high levels of proficiency needed for trade negotiations and international conference. The minimum level of accreditation that NAATI recommends for professional work in Australia is the Professional Interpreter level. Interpreters need to have a sound knowledge of a wide range of subjects to develop a thorough understanding of the complex issues that are discussed during interpreting assignments.

Duties & Tasks of a Interpreter


  • interpret verbal or signed communications between two parties
  • provide simultaneous or consecutive interpretations of conversations or speeches
  • express the meaning and feeling of what is said or signed in another language in the appropriate tone and style within a range of settings
  • verbally translate written texts.

Employment Opportunities for a Interpreter

Interpreters usually work on a freelance basis. They are employed by federal, state or territory government departments concerned with immigration, defence, legal issues and law enforcement, social security and education. Organisations such as hospitals, banks, tourist agencies and private interpreting and translating firms may also employ interpreters on a contract or freelance basis. Most interpreting positions, such as interpreting in courts or working for the state, territory and federal Translating and Interpreting Services, are on a contract, freelance or casual basis. Permanent opportunities are limited, but are most likely in health and defence. Some highly qualified interpreters work at international conferences, as well as government and/or business meetings.

Avg. weekly wage:


Future growth:


Employment by state:

ACT 3.3%

NSW 31.5%

NT 1.8%

QLD 15.6%

SA 6.9%

VIC 30.1%

WA 9%

TAS 1.7%

Hours worked:



Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 36%

Female 64%

Education level:

Highest qualification is secondary school: 9.5%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 4.5%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 13.8%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 32.4%

Highest qualification is a Postgraduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 35.6%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0.1%

20-24 - 6.1%

25-34 - 26.8%

35-44 - 22.6%

45-54 - 19.5%

55-59 - 8.2%

60-64 - 7.1%

65 and Over - 9.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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