Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Interpreters and Translators

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for interpreters and translators are average. Employment numbers are growing, and demand for skilled interpreters and translators is projected to grow. However, it is a small occupation, and it can be difficult for new graduates to get started. The demand for interpreters and translators also depends on the languages they translate.

How to become an interpreter or translator

What they do

Interpreters translate a spoken or sign language into another spoken or sign language. Interpreters usually translate in ‘real time’ to allow for conversations to go back and forth in different languages.

Translators translate written sources from one language to another. They usually have more time than interpreters, and therefore higher accuracy is expected.

Their tasks may include:

  • providing simultaneous and consecutive verbal or signed renditions of speeches into another language
  • rendering the meaning and feeling of what is said and signed into another language in the appropriate register and style in a range of settings such as courts, hospitals, schools, workplaces and conferences
  • studying original texts and transcripts of recorded spoken material to comprehend subject matter and translating them into another language
  • rendering the meaning and feeling of written material, such as literary, legal, technical and scientific texts, into another language in the appropriate register and style, so that it will read as an original piece rather than as a translation.


There are no formal entry requirements to work as an interpreter or translator, but extensive knowledge of the languages to be translated is essential.

There are several qualifications available for interpreters and translators. The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) has a list of courses that can lead to membership on their website. There are other courses available for students who want to become Māori or sign-language interpreters. Employers, such as Interpreting New Zealand, also have their own training courses for new employees. In general, it is common for interpreters and translators to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters, approved courses:

Cost of study

As there are many different ways to become a translator or interpreter, the cost of study depends on which degree is chosen. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

NZSTI-approved programmes are offered at the University of Auckland, AUT and Victoria University. AUT offers a Bachelor in New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Studies for students who want to interpret between sign language and English. Students who want to become Māori translators or interpreters can do a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting and Translating Māori at Waikato University.

AUT Bachelor in New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf Studies: 
Waikato University Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting and Translating Māori:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a master’s degree in ‘Language & Literature’ has been stable in recent years. Few of these students will go into translating or interpreting, but it means the pool of potential new recruits is stable.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for interpreters and translators is estimated to be around $36,000, reflecting the part-time and casual nature of the occupation..

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ 2018 Income Survey

Employment and skill shortages

Interpreters and translators’ employment

Historic Projected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
654 768 870 940
  2.3% 2.1% 1.3%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the category “Social and Welfare Professionals”.

The number of interpreters and translators in employment increased at a relatively fast rate from 2006 to 2013. This trend is projected to continue out to 2028. Note: overall numbers working in this occupation are quite small.

Many interpreters and translators of foreign languages in New Zealand are independent contractors who only work on call. This is because there isn’t a large enough demand for translation to many languages for someone to be employed full-time.

Employment chart


Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
22% 24% 2% 56% $45,000

Source: Ministry of Education
*Three years after completion of Masters - Language & Literature. ‘Overseas’ refers to the percentage of all graduates completing this qualification. Other indicators refer only to graduates living in New Zealand.

Three years after completing a master’s degree in language and literature, most graduates were in employment. Some were studying or receiving a benefit, while a fairly high proportion was overseas. The median salary three years after completion was around $45,000. Note: many of these graduates were not employed as interpreters or translators.

Interpreters or translators are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Online job vacancy numbers for the broader category “Social Professionals” have grown at about the same rate as the average for all occupations, but has risen more sharply in the last few years.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Interpreter and translator vacancies are advertised through websites such as TradeMe Jobs and Seek. Work can also be found directly with interpreting agencies such as Interpreting New Zealand.

TradeMe Jobs: 
Interpreting NZ:

Career path

There is no clear career path for interpreters and translators.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level interpreters and translators.

  • Linguist
  • Sign Language Interpreter
  • Teacher

Other information


More information on interpreters and translators is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of interpreters and translators has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

272412 – Interpreter
272413 – Translator