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Studying interpreting:

1. I’m 18 and I'd like to be an interpreter, what and where should I study?

A: To work for DG Interpretation as an interpreter you will need minimum of 2 or 3 other EU languages (depending on which active language you are applying for). You will need a bachelor'sdegree in any subject, (it doesn't necessarily have to be in languages), and a postgraduate qualification in conference interpreting or significant professional experience as a conference interpreter.
There are a number of universities across Europe that offer postgraduate courses in conference interpreting. Here is a non-exhaustive list of universities pdf - 306 KB [306 KB] that work regularly with DG Interpretation.

2. Do I have to have an MA or do you accept other types of postgraduate qualifications?

A. In order to be eligible for our test you would need an MA or a PGDip in Conference Interpreting. The DPSI however is not sufficient as a qualification to be accepted at an EU accreditation test.

3. Once I’ve finished my postgraduate course what do I do next?

A: You can apply for our accreditation test onlineexternal link. All the universities will be able to tell you how to go about it, and how to prepare. Once your application has been accepted you’ll be invited to a test as soon as possible. Please see the 2014 test calendar external link.

4. I’ve been interpreting for years but have no formal interpreting qualifications. Can I work for you?

A: Yes, if you have a bachelor's degree, can give proof of your experience as a conference interpreter, and pass our accreditation test.

Language questions:

5. Which languages should I learn and how many?

A: You need a minimum of 2 or 3 other EU languages (depending on your active language) and our advice is to start with languages you like and can learn relatively easily. You can find information regarding the current language profiles in demand with the EU interpreting services here external link. However, we cannot fully predict the future needs of the European Union regarding interpreters.

6. Do I have to be fluent in all my languages?

A: No – you have to be able to understand them pretty well perfectly, but you don’t have to speak them fluently or be bilingual.

7. I’ve got Russian/Arabic/Japanese/Chinese? Can I work for the EU?

A: We do employ freelancers with non-EU languages external link, but we can’t offer you enough work to live on. There’s a pretty good private market for them in Europe, though you’re usually expected to work both ways.

You might also find work within the UNexternal link organisations.

8. I’m an English-French bilingual? Is that enough to work for the EU?

A: We do have people on the books with just one language working both ways, but we can’t give them very much work. On the other hand, you’ll probably find more work on the private market that way.

9. Does my regional accent matter?

A: As long as you are clear and comprehensible to all the people listening to you (who might be anything from Finnish to Greek) your accent doesn’t matter.Practical questions:

10. How much would I earn as an interpreter?

Your salary as a staff interpreter depends on your level of expertise. Starting interpreters are hired at level AD5, while experienced interpreters can be hired at level AD7. For more details see hereexternal link.

As a beginner freelancer your net daily rate is about 310€.

As an experienced freelancer your net daily rate is about 400€. You will automatically be admitted to this category as soon as you have worked for 250 days for the European Institutions.

On top of the daily rate freelancers will receive about 100€ (beginners) or 130€ (experienced interpreters) for every day worked, which will be paid into a private pension insurance. They are also covered for health insurance during the time they work for the institutions. For more benefits for freelance interpreters please see here external link.

11. What are the working conditions like? How long do you work at a time?

A: That depends on your language combination, the meeting and the languages spoken, but generally never more than 30 minutes non-stop or 10 hours in the booth per day with a 90 minute lunch break. The working conditions are laid down in an agreement which covers all interpreters working for DG Interpretation.

12. Would I have to live in Brussels?

A: If you want to work regularly for us – yes! The Commission's Headquarters is in Brussels so it is logical that most meetings take place here. Naturally, deciding where you want to live is up to you but in times of budget restrictions it is harder for us to hire freelancers who do not live in Brussels. It’s simple economics: It costs us more to employ someone who is not a Brussels resident.

13. Do you have to travel a lot?

A: Yes you do. For some people that’s a plus, for others not, especially if you have small children (in which case you can opt out). However, you do get to see all sorts of places and people you would never normally see. You can even end up on TV!

14. Do I have to have EU nationality to work for you?

A: Not as a freelancer – you can have any nationality you like. To be a staff interpreter, however, you do have to be an EU national.

15. How will I survive as a freelancer who's just started?

A: Once you have passed the accreditation test you'll have the opportunity to apply for our Newcomers schemeexternal link, which is designed to help beginners get a certain amount of work despite their inexperience, as we know that it is tough starting out!

Many people also work as translatorsexternal link to begin with.

Jobs jobs jobs:

16. How do I get to be a staff interpreter with the EU?

A: usually people start as freelancers and then, once they’ve got a bit of experience, they take one of the open competitions, which are organised every four years or so by EPSOexternal link.

17. Is it better to be a freelancer or be on the staff?

A: That depends on your personal situation, your preferences and your character. Freelancers have more freedom as they are not bound to one institution or employer. As a staff member you are not only an interpreter but also on the staff of a big organisation with job security, improved life-long learning opportunities and possibilities for mobility. However, the work they do is the same.