Historical Interpreter: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Historical interpreters require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Historical interpreters portray various figures throughout history in order to recreate life during a certain period or to enhance informative speeches and lectures. They can perform in different settings, such as at a battle reenactment or other themed events. Many historical interpreters learn specialized skills like blacksmithing or antiquated garment sewing to add an element of realism to their characters.

Essential Information

Historical interpreters, also called historical actors or character speakers, recreate history by dressing and acting like specific historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln, or general period characters, such as a Civil War soldier. They can work in museums, parks, battlefield recreation sites and other settings. There are generally no education requirements to become a historical interpreter, and most employers provide on-the-job training. Optional professional certification is available and may boost employment opportunities.

Required Education No requirements
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5.1% for tour guides and escorts
Average Salary (2015)* $39,530 for travel guides at museums and historical sites

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Historical Interpreter Duties

The main duty of a historical interpreter is to provide an accurate account of history through the portrayal of a historical character. When preparing to represent a historical character, an interpreter must research the time period and character completely through historical records, books, letters and other factual sources. This may involve learning trades or antiquated techniques, such as blacksmithing, using historical farm tools, sewing petticoats and practicing battlefield maneuvers. A historical interpreter may play the part of a character in a reenactment, recreate daily life in a historical village, give lectures or teach others about life in a historical period.

Historical Interpreter Requirements

Employers generally don't require historical interpreters to have a specific background or degree. They look for candidates who have the ability to conduct research, demonstrate good communication skills and perform a part believably. Most interpreters get on-the-job training. A background in history can be helpful. Some interpreters hold degrees in history, museum studies or education.

The National Association for Interpretation (NAI) offers the Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) credential that serves as documentation of skills and knowledge. Earning this credential usually isn't required by employers; however, since job openings in this profession are limited, certification may give a person an edge over other applicants. To earn the CIG certification, a person must be at least 16 years old, attend a 32-hour workshop and pass an exam (www.interpnet.com).

In order to perform a character's role convincingly, historical interpreters must conduct extensive research into a specific time period. Their specializations vary; for example, a battle reenactor needs to be well-acquainted with historic battlefields and techniques. Historical interpreters do not require a formal education.

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