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a question related to career change and the interpreter's profession. What is the average age of commencing a career as a conference interpreter (including training)? How are they viewed in the industry aspiring students that have come from other academic backgrounds and with not so relevant (international) professional experience (i.e. not languages related)?

Thank you very much in advance.

asked 26 Mar '13, 09:41

Nikoletta's gravatar image


edited 26 Mar '13, 16:08

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Though someone with more experience should probably field this one, but I'll take a crack at it. From what I know, more experience can only ever be a good thing. In fact, it seems that students in interpretation programmes already have another advanced degree in a field, like you mentioned, not in 'languages'. This actually makes a lot of sense, though, because the majority of the content one interprets is not concerning languages - it's about law, medicine, engineering, light bulbs, giraffe migration patterns, etc.

Secondly, I'd like to make the point that "international professional experience" can mean a lot of things. If you mean your background is not in political science or international law, then you're not automatically out of the game. Like I said before, interpreters don't all interpret just one thing. A lot of people want to talk about a lot of different things and need interpreters to facilitate that communication.

And to address your concern about changing careers. I cannot advise you on whether or not a mid-career change is wise. However, the question you should be concerned with is whether or not the skills required of an interpreter are skills you feel you either possess or have the aptitude to learn. Seeing as the age of students is often rather high and the academic backgrounds quite varied, the problem of whether it's too late to get into this is much less relevant.

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answered 26 Mar '13, 11:37

charlielee's gravatar image


Thank you very much charlielee. I do feel confident of possessing those 'soft skills' that are required and the motivation to pursue this, but you realise how frightening it can be to decide to make radical changes in your life at a critical age (mid thirties).. It is refreshing also to read that interpreters do come from different backgrounds. I read a lot about the requirements and it does seem to hold true that interpreters possess a multifaceted professional profile where languages is only one component (ok, the most important!). Thank you again and all the best.

(26 Mar '13, 12:07) Nikoletta

I started at what these days would be an uncommonly young age - a few days after turning 20, woe is me! - and during these 35+ years have seen successful candidates enter the profession between their early twenties through late thirties... I recently heard - in fact, only day before yesterday - a well respected researcher and trainer say that mid-fifties would clearly be too late, so if you're in your mid-thirties I'd say go for training, if you've looked into the profession, liked what you saw and believe you've got what it takes :-).

If you're still in the process of deciding about which training and where, you'll be able to get invaluable advice from the schools you'll sound out... they will probably welcome willingly a more mature candidate than their usual crop of recent graduates, whose experience , both professional and of the world in general, often times falls short of the plasticity of their brains, another requisite for the new wiring schools will undertake :-).

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answered 26 Mar '13, 13:30

msr's gravatar image


Thank you very much for your encouragement! It seems that my language combination of Greek, English and Spanish is not as sought after as it once used to be, so finding a school is tricky. I will definitely pursue it in the coming months. All the best to you!

(26 Mar '13, 14:23) Nikoletta

Hi Nikoletta!

I asked myself - and others who were already working in this field - the same question 2-3 years ago and if I may put my two cents in, considering a career move to become an interpreter is in my view a good idea! :)

If it makes you feel any better, I'm also - or let's say almost ;) - in my mid-thirties and started an MA in CI last year. And guess what? The great majority of the students at my school are in their mid to late thirties. I may not be the youngest student, but I'm most definitely NOT the oldest one! :) I don't think age should be your main concern here. Instead you should find out whether you're serious about your career move and whether interpreting really is what you want to do in the end.

All I can say is that I have absolutely no regrets! It's far from being easy but incredibly challenging and rewarding. I wouldn't miss it for the world! But you should be willing to offer "blood, toil, tears, and sweat".

Hope this helps! :)

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answered 26 Mar '13, 16:41

Annie's gravatar image



It definitely helps! Thank you so much, it seems that you are the right example. All the best luck for the future!

(26 Mar '13, 18:13) Nikoletta
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question asked: 26 Mar '13, 09:41

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