Some of you may be puzzled by the question. Many translators love their profession for various reasons, but it is a long way from claiming it is the best.
According to a survey conducted in 2013 by British job search engine adzuna.co.uk, translator was the best job in the United Kingdom and Canada, closely followed by web developer and surgeon. Adzuna found translators, along with librarians, to have the least stressful jobs, based on the fact that both roles have few deadlines, are subject to low levels of competition and undertake little physical work. The results of Adzuna’s survey were supported by CareerCast’s research. The US-based job search engine publishes their yearly Jobs Rated Almanac which ranks the best and worst jobs in America. In 2014, they ranked ‘interpreter-translator’ 27th, and found that translators could expect job security and high salaries. In 2015’s ranking, interpreter and translator fell two spots to 29.
Adzuna hasn’t released any updated version of their survey, but the results were widely publicised: along with other media outlets, The Telegraph reported on ‘the best careers in a changing Britain’ and The Globe and Mail was relieved to be able to announce that newspaper reporter wasn’t the worst job after all. It’s great to see our profession recognised and praised so widely, but I can’t help and wonder at the reliability of the data the research was based upon.
While it is difficult to argue that translation is a physically strenuous activity, all other points (job stability, lack of deadlines, high salaries etc.) are highly debatable. Translators – especially freelancers – deal with numerous, often tight deadlines, and depending on their language combinations, they may face strong competition that pushes their rates (or salaries) down. It should also be noted that the profession of translator is an extremely diverse one, with professionals working full-time in permanent positions, and freelancers who may work from time to time to supplement their other incomes. The work settings may differ greatly too, from an international organisation to a home office or a small translation agency. So which type of translator do the rankings relate to? A Spanish-to-English translator working full-time for an international organisation? A community translator working casually from English to Bengali for community organisations?
Because of the media attention they receive, these surveys and rankings play an important role in shaping the general public’s perception and expectations of different professions. It may be wishful thinking on my part to call for a more detailed analysis of each profession to provide a true reflection of professionals’ real experiences, but we should always take those results with a pinch of salt.
People rarely become translators to earn a lot of money or because they can’t deal with stress. Most of them choose this career because they enjoy working between languages and cultures, find it rewarding or have been asked to for one reason or another. There aren’t best and worst jobs really – what matters is whether your job makes you happy.