Hey, liberal arts majors: there may be a new career for you in high tech. Don’t worry; it doesn’t require heavy duty programming or analytical skills. And your years of French or Russian? They’re an asset (when did you last hear that?). Ditto your love of world travel. Even better, it builds on your interest in how people live and learn across the globe.

Software localization is a little-known but growing profession: Companies from Microsoft to Getty Images need help in adapting products or services for use in different languages and locales. And you may be better positioned than you realize to break into this expanding and well-paying field. 

I’d never heard of the profession until University of Washington Professional & Continuing Education (where I worked at the time) launched a certificate program that welcomes career changers as well as techies. I was intrigued. Could I, an English major and PR professional with everyday computer skills, segue into localization? I went to Microsoft’s Carla DiFranco to learn more. DiFranco, a senior localization professional, serves on the certificate program’s advisory board. 

“Language experience and knowledge of other cultures is helpful in understanding a lot of the concepts of localization right out of the gate,” said DiFranco. “But IT experience is not necessary, especially because there are project manager roles as well as software engineering positions.”

In addition to language translation, localization professionals address details such as time zones, local currency, national holidays, images and colors (for issues of comprehensibility and cultural appropriateness), gender roles, and geographic examples. Varying legal requirements can be an issue.

Localization may even require a comprehensive rethinking of software design or presentation, if the way of doing business (for example, accounting practices) or the preferred learning style (such as focus on individual vs. group learning) differs substantially depending on locale. The range of factors involved makes the job fascinating—and also opens it up to professionals of different backgrounds.  

As for tech background: If you have command of Microsoft Office products, good web research skills, and a little aptitude for tech learning, you can pick up the rest on the job, says DiFranco. Experience with basic HTML is “nice but not necessary,” she said. “It’s a soft way to enter the tech industry.”

If you’re considering a career change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 report calls localization “a rapidly expanding specialty.” It forecasts that through the year 2018 “there should be demand for specialists in localization, driven by imports and exports and the expansion of the Internet.” 

DiFranco agreed with that assessment. The job outlook for localization professionals is “not bad, actually,” she told me. “There are positions available for project managers as well as software engineers, on the vendor as well as the client side.” 

She estimated that salaries range from 60k to 100k depending on the company and experience level. “The problem is that there are very few localization training programs in the U.S., so it’s hard to find folks that can start in a junior position with a little assistance, right away.”

To learn more about the fundamentals of  this profession and whether it might be for you, you can register for a free on-demand webinar, “Localization 101: Getting Started with Localization” presented by Lionbridge.