Thursday, October 31, 2013

Job growth for translators and interpreters: Reality or mirage?

When you are an interpreter or translator, or both, and you learn that translation and interpretation made it into the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics for the first time in the 2004-2005 edition, you feel excited about it. Indeed, it was a happy event –a sign that our profession is being acknowledged as such.

Then, when you learn that the 2012-2013 edition of the same Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that the estimated number of jobs in T&I in 2010 was 58,000 and that the job outlook in the field for  2010-2020 is for growth of 42%, which is much faster than average, then you start to feel very optimistic about the changes in the field and what the future will hold in terms of career opportunity and especially the possibility of making better wages
Finally, when even a local TV channel airs a piece produced by CNN Money saying that interpretation and translation is one of the fifteen fastest growing occupations in the nation (which happened this week), you go “wait a minute.”  Where are those jobs? Am I missing something?  In my October 18 post, I reported massive staff interpreter layoffs at a local hospital.  Yet, respectable organizations like the U.S. Department of Labor and CNN convey bright news for interpreters and translators.  As I pondered in my post, was that massive layoff of healthcare interpreters a mere hiccup?  Is there hope for jobs in our profession?
Obviously, I assume the projections of the Department of Labor are reliable, but the reality on the ground feels very different.  As an interpreter and translator, and above all as an interpreter and translator trainer, I remain optimistic that the profession is indeed growing, that interpreters and translators will be in greater demand, and that this tough job market will get better.

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