When I visited the language centre at the Instituto Superior de Contabilidade e Administraçao do Porto, I was told that graduates from their language program sometimes have trouble finding work. What are the best career choices for language specialists?Here is a guest article on this subject from Alexandru of Lingo24 a global translation and localization company, launched in 2001 and which now employs some 4,000 professional freelance translators covering a hundred different language combinations.
Career choices: freelance translator or language teacher?
Studying foreign languages opens up a wide variety of career opportunities for young graduates, such as: being an interpreter; translator; bilingual marketer; travel guide; or even a minority outreach specialist. However, most graduates follow one of two career paths – that of a freelance translator or language teacher. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a closer look.
The American Translator Association (ATA) states that the average full time freelance translator in the USA earns more than $60000 a year. Of course, this figure depends on a couple of important points – languages and specialties.
There’s a greater demand for translation in the more widespread languages, with Spanish being the most important – due to the increasing Hispanic population in the United States. The next thing that must be taken into account is the specialty of the translator. A literary translator can never make the same amount of money as a healthcare, law or technology translator.
One thing that must be pointed out is that freelancing is not for everyone. Working from home and making your own schedule requires organization and good planning. Another thing that a lot of young graduates forget to take into account when choosing a career as a freelancer is, 25-35% of their total income will go to things that your employer normally pays for, such as:
· Taxes – self-employment tax in the United States is currently set at 15.30% of all income; 12.4% for social security and 2.9% for Medicare;
· Health Insurance (Medicare in US) – taxes are fixed at 2.9%;
· Retirement plan;
· Dictionaries, glossaries, grammar books, etc;
· Office equipment;
· Software and terminology management software (SDLX, TRADOS, Déjà Vu, etc.).
Consequently, it’s important to keep in mind that becoming a freelance translator doesn’t just involve translating – it also means being your own bookkeeper, accountant, HR manager, office supply manager, etc.
The National Education Association (NEA) states that the median annual earnings of an elementary, middle, and secondary school teacher ranges from $45000 to $55000 a year.
Besides the potential income difference, the other element that should be considered when making the career choice between being a freelancer and a language teacher is that a teacher doesn’t have the flexibility of a freelancer. On the other hand, they don’t have to worry about their retirement fund, health insurance and taxes, as the employer will have all this covered.
But more importantly than the income, taxes, or flexibility, graduates that want to become language teachers must ask themselves, ‘is this is a job I like?’ Teaching is not for everyone, and without a clear interest and talent for teaching – no matter how passionate you are about languages – becoming a language teacher can be daunting.
There is no right or wrong decision when choosing a career, as long as you give your decision thorough thought and can imagine yourself doing the job in the future.