Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters

Unit Group 5125

Skill Type: Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport

Type of work

Translators translate written material from one language to another. Interpreters translate oral communication from one language to another during speeches, meetings, conferences, debates and conversation, or in court or before administrative tribunals. Terminologists conduct research to itemize terms connected with a certain field, define them and find equivalents in another language. Sign language interpreters use sign language to translate spoken language and vice versa during meetings, conversations, television programs or in other instances.

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • community interpreter
  • conference interpreter
  • court interpreter
  • interpreter
  • legal terminologist
  • literary translator
  • localisor
  • medical terminologist
  • sign language interpreter
  • terminologist
  • translator
  • translator adaptor
  • translator-reviser


Job prospects in this occupation are good.

(Update: February 2014)

A) Overview

Over the past few years the number of translators, terminologists and interpreters has increased significantly. Growing demand for information explains this increase. Since this trend should be maintained, it is expected that their numbers will continue to increase significantly over the coming years.

Sources of employment

Career opportunities will arise primarily from the need to replace translators, terminologists and interpreters who are retiring, but also from employment increase. In fact, the proportion of those aged 55 and over in 2006 was much higher than that of all occupations (22% compared with 15%, according to census data).

Some opportunities will arise from positions vacated by people being promoted to management or leaving this profession for journalism, writing, teaching or other positions.

Labour pool

The few terminologist positions that may be vacant are usually reserved for candidates with a master's degree in terminology. The translators and interpreters positions are available first to university graduates of translation and sometimes to people who have perfect French, English and a third language with training in a specialized field in demand (law, engineering, computers and so on). This said, translation continues to be the most applicable discipline in order to access translator and interpreter positions. An indication of the relevance of this training is that, in 2006, nearly two thirds (63%) of translators, terminologists and interpreters held a degree in humanities, discipline that include letters and translation. As the unemployment rate is relatively low in this occupation, few opportunities will be filled by experienced unemployed translators, terminologists or interpreters. Many positions are expected to be filled by immigrants who meet the occupational requirements. In 2006, the percentage of immigrants in this occupation was twice as high as in all occupations (22% compared with 12%).

The placement rate and the unemployment rate for graduates of bachelor's degrees in tranlation are generally very good and compare favorably with those of other university graduates in general, according to the Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport's Relance survey data. Many employers are worried about succession. In the face of that demand, the number of students working toward this bachelor's degree increased close to 45% between 1998 and 2007. That increase has also an effect on the number of graduates, which rose approximately 50% between 1999 and 2011. In view of the demand for translation, the labour market seems to be able to accommodate this influx of graduates.


According to census data, in 2006 approximately 53 % of the translators, terminologists and interpreters worked in translation and interpretation services and 11% in federal administration. Others worked in a large number of different industries, with a certain concentration in finance and insurances (4%), information and cultural industries (4%) and in educational services (4%).

Employment characteristics

According to census data, women held approximately 70% of the jobs in this occupation in 2006, a percentage that has been rising slightly since 1991 (64%). This percentage should continue to increase over the next few years, because between 75% and 85% of the new graduates in translation are women. The annual employment income ($49,988) shown in the "Characteristics" section of the "Statistics" applies only to the 48% of people in this occupation who worked full time and full-year in 2005. The average employment income for those who did not work full time and full-year was $23,332 in 2005.

B) Trends by speciality

In March 2013, approximately 98% of theOrdre professionnel des traducteurs et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ) membership were at least translators, about 3.5% were at least terminologists and fewer than 2% were at least interpreters. It should be noted that some members of the order are certified in more than one category. These percentages provide an idea of the proportion of each specialty in the occupational group, but are approximate and subject to change. Membership in the order is not mandatory to work in these occupations or to use the titles translator, terminologist or interpreter. Only the titles of certified translator (C. Tr.), certified terminologist (C. Term.) and certified interpreter (C. Int.) are reserved for members of the order. According to the order's membership data, the strong growth in recently years has been limited exclusively to certified translators. The number of certified interpreters has remained steady, while the number of certified terminologists had dipped slightly.


Translators work for translation companies, as salaried employees or for themselves, and for governments. Part-time work is common. Many translators have more than one job, such as writing; conversely, many members of other professions translate, often in very specific fields: actors, programmers, writers, teachers and so on. There is a larger percentage of these jobs on the Island of Montreal and in the Outaouais region than in the other regions. According to census data, in 2006, these regions where home to 58% of the members in this occupational group, whereas less than 29% of the jobs were located there.

The translation market is experiencing strong growth in the public sector and, and even more in the private sector. This stems from the ever-growing need for information. The sectors that offer the best prospects in this area are aerospace, transport, corporate services, the pharmaceutical industry, telecommunications equipment, financial services, information technologies and international organizations. As a result of economic globalization, companies have to have their documentation translated into the languages of the countries that purchase their products or services. In addition to the traditional volume of translation in English and French, the local demand for multilingual translation (Spanish, German, Italian, and so on) is increasing. Clients prefer to do business with one translation company for all their translation needs.

Not only must the documentation that accompanies the products be understood in several languages, but because these products are becoming increasingly complex, the manuals that come with them are also much longer than before. For example, electronic products have a growing number of functions that must be clearly described in detail so users understand them. This factor is also generating an increase in the amount of work for translators.

Growth in the need for information has risen even more due to the development of services offered on the Internet and company intranets. Whether they are government services or services offered by private companies, their development generates a very significant volume of work for translators, both in creating sites and updating the content. An increasing number of private and public academic institutions are now also offering courses for translators on designing and writing for Web sites.

As consumers become increasingly demanding, companies have to further adapt to local characteristics so that the consumer is not aware of translation. This type of translation is called localization. Localization is generally done from English to the language of the distribution markets: Japanese, German, French, Spanish and so on. Localization also affects translations for multimedia and high-tech products. This is the strongest trend currently on the translation market. Unfortunately, few companies in Quebec are able to offer this service, even though the translation industry is well established there. This requires a developed infrastructure and established networks throughout the world. Companies in Quebec must call on the services of international offices to fulfil their needs in this area. Growth in localization could lead to translation-company mergers, which could in turn reach the critical mass to be able to offer such services. Furthermore, the education sector is adapting to this new trend. University translation departments added localization courses and programs over the past few years.

Translator productivity has increased significantly over the past few years and translation needs continue to grow. As a result, the rate per word has decreased significantly. Increased productivity is due to competition between freelances and to the development of computer-aided translation: terminology banks, spelling and grammar software, lexicographical databases, translation memory systems, desktop publishing and so on. Although familiarity with these computer tools is not yet systematically required by employers, according to the Language Technologies Research Centre, there has been a major increase in this type of requirement.

Automated translation is growing but only in very specialized fields such as weather forecasts, contracts and job descriptions where texts are repetitive. Automated translation also gives an idea of the content of a text for internal use but not for publication.

The higher demand for translation is such that the need for translators should continue to increase significantly over the coming years, despite the use of automated translation and increased productivity. That said, government cutbacks could slow this trend, both by reducing hiring translators as lower contract given to external translators.

According to census data, in 2006 approximately 41% of translators, terminologists ans interpreters had their own business. Following years of growth, the number of self-employed translators seems to have reached a plateau. Employers both in the private and public sectors have started to hire experienced translators again to have salaried employees on-site full-time. The federal government is opening positions and sometimes carries out external contracts to make its translation services cost-effective. Budget cuts planned over the next few years, however, call into question the potential for employment growth in federal government.


Interpreting services are mostly used in conferences, group discussions (corporate assistants for instance) as well as in the legal context. This profession may require frequent travel and great flexibility. The market is limited and most interpreters freelance. Many of them are also translators.


The terminology sector offers limited prospects. Government cutbacks and the development of terminological banks and automated search tools explain this trend.

Education and Training

The usual requirement for this occupation is a bachelor's degree in translation or a related discipline and specialization in translation, terminology or interpretation. Training in a specialized field that is in demand (law, engineering, computer science, pharmacy, economics, etc.) coupled with a very good knowledge of the source language and perfect command of the target language can also open the door to specialized jobs. A good knowledge of a third language is an asset and is sometimes required.

Membership in theOrdre professionnel des traducteurs et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTIAQ) is not mandatory but is often required by clients. Only members of the Ordre can use the title of certified translator, certified terminologist and certified interpreter. The Ordre offers professional development courses.

Useful References

Important Considerations

The translation market is experiencing significant growth, especially in multilingual translation and in localization.

The higher demand for translation is such that the need for translators should continue to increase significantly over the coming years, despite the use of automated translation and increased productivity.

The labour market status of graduates with a bachelor's degree in translation compares favourably with the situation of other university graduates. It should remain good despite the significant increase in the number of graduates in the next few years.

Statistics 5125 - Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 5125 All occupations
Employment, average 2010-2012 12,150 3,951,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2012 50 87,600
Average Annual Growth Rate 2013-2017 1.6% 0.8%
Annual Employment Variation 2013-2017 200 33,400
Annual Attrition 2013-2017 300 73,500
Total Annual Needs 2013-2017 500 106,900

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 5125 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 30.8% 51.9%
Females 69.2% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 3.3% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 42.5% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 47.6% 41.1%
65 years and over 6.6% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 76.2% 81.2%
Part-time 23.8% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 48.2% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $54,400 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 10.9% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 36.7% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 52.5% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 1.0% 12.1%
High-school 3.2% 20.3%
Post-secondary 15.9% 44.2%
Bachelors 79.9% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 41.1% 10.7%
Immigration 23.1% 13.7%
Employment by Region
RegionUnit Group 5125 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 0.0% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 0.4% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 8.1% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 0.4% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 1.9% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 1.2% 1.6%
Estrie 2.8% 3.8%
Gaspésie-îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.0% 0.9%
Lanaudière 1.9% 6.1%
Laurentides 5.4% 7.3%
Laval 5.0% 5.2%
Mauricie 1.2% 3.0%
Montérégie 14.0% 19.2%
Montréal 42.2% 22.9%
Outaouais 14.9% 4.9%
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean 0.4% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

SectorUnit Group 5125
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 64.9%
- Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Translation Services included) 58.2%
Public Administration 12.0%
- Federal 9.9%
Finance and Insurance 5.3%