Is translation a future proof career?

Hi Joanna!

Well done on such an informative site. It has been on my 'favourites' list for over a year now.

I have signed myself up for an online postgraduate translation course, which is something I have been wanting to do for years. However, I have been trying to research the job prospects for a German to English translator and finding it very hard to gauge if there is enough work to make a living wage. Also, I am wondering with the rapid pace and improvement in machine translation, is there a chance I might be obsolete after all my hard work and expense?!!

I know these are difficult questions to answer and it is really only your educated opinion as someone who is working in the industry,that I am after.

Many thanks,


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You've taken the right step!
by: Joanna

Hello Mary

Many thanks for your kind comments – glad the site is helpful. Please spread the word!

Congratulations on signing up for a postgraduate translation course, that’s certainly a very good first step to starting a career in German translation.

I believe the prospects are good for us freelancers. No reasonably sized German company will want to ignore its non-German speaking market, and most translation work is contracted out to freelancers. Although I suspect translation will never make me a millionaire, I do earn my living with German translation. There are benefits and drawbacks to working for yourself, but I enjoy organising my day myself, and knowing that I’m not dependent on a single source of income.

Machine translation is developing in leaps and bounds, but I don’t think serious translators feel particularly threatened. Machine translation has a role to play in providing an instant, gist translation – something a translator would probably not get asked to do anyway. But no client with a reputation to uphold would consider machine translation alone as a means of producing English material of an adequate quality. It may become increasingly accepted by translators as a part of the translation process (particularly with CAT tool), and could actually be a helpful tool.

Regarding work, my advice is 1: specialise, 2: diversify, 3: keep qualifying.

As you are doing a postgraduate course, I presume you have a first degree and/or work experience. If you can combine professional experience with translation, that’s super – whatever the field. Science, law, technology, marketing, financial, education, medicine…. The more specialised the better, the more you can charge, the easier it is to make your mark, identify and win clients. The market is definitely dividing into non-specialist translators suffering from the downward pressure on prices, and specialists who are in demand, do great work and charge accordingly.

Diversify. Many translators offer translation and language-related services, such as teaching, editing, copywriting etc. This increases your potential income and gives you greater market presence. There’s a great new book out by German translator Nicole Adams called Diversification in the Language Industry: Success beyond translation
you might like to read on just this subject.

Keep qualifying. Attend industry events and do courses related to your specialisation. It makes you look serious and helps you stand out from the competition.

Above all, be encouraged! Best of luck, and you can always ask more questions if needed!


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German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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