Are you interested in becoming a conference interpreter? Learn about the knowledge, abilities and experience required and if the interpreting profession is a good fit.

Is conference interpreting the right profession for you?

Professional profile

Most conference interpreters are self-employed freelance professionals. They have to be very flexible in terms of when and where they work. Irregular working hours and work in the evening or at weekends are not uncommon. In addition, some interpreters travel a great deal.

Since freelance conference interpreters generally work for numerous clients, they have to be able to cover a broad range of subjects (technology, business, law, fisheries, etc.) and read up on complex subject matter.

Staff interpreters may work for national or international organisations. They have a regular salary, but usually have to demonstrate the same flexibility at work as their freelance colleagues.


Interpreters undergo specialised post-graduate training before starting out. They acquire the core skills to work as a conference interpreter, including:

  • Interpreting techniques (simultaneous and consecutive interpreting in different settings);
  • International organisations, their mandate and operations, including study visits;
  • Preparing for meetings; knowledge and terminology management;
  • Public speaking skills and voice training;
  • Translation theory and the latest research.

Skill set

Having a specific skill set is useful when becoming a professional interpreter:

  • A good all-round level of education;
  • Ability to quickly grasp new ideas;
  • Ability to maintain high levels of concentration;
  • Analytical and synthesis skills;
  • A good memory;
  • Flexibility;
  • Stamina and strong nerves;
  • Empathy, in other words the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes regardless of language or cultural barriers.

Get detailed information about the professional profile of an interpreter and guidance for new interpreters from VEGA.

There are several interpreting schools in Africa, which offer a Master’s Degree in Conference Interpretation:


Advanced School of Translators & Interpreters (ASTI), University of Buea

Pan African University


Université Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis


University of Ghana


Centre for Translation and Interpretation, University of Nairobi


Universidade Pedagógica de Maputo

South Africa

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

For more information about interpreting courses worldwide, peruse the AIIC Interpreting Schools & Programmes Directory