Have you ever wondered how much do interpreters make? What is the norm for translator and interpreter salaries? How much will I earn if I become a translator or interpreter?
These are some of the most often asked questions I get from people visiting the website who are interested in a career in the language field, especially as a translator or interpreter.
First off, it’s important to remember that interpreters and translators do two very distinct functions and that a typical interpreter is going to have a different salary than their translator counterpart.
But here I’m going to focus specifically on interpreters and what different types of interpreters can expect to earn.
Of course, no two interpreters are the same, and many roads lead down the path of a career in interpreting, so it’s important to keep that in mind when reading about interpreter pay.
First of all, interpreter salaries are not all the same. Different interpreting jobs pay different amounts, and even different training coupled with experience can pay differently in the end.
I’ve mentioned before that there are different types of interpreters (just like there are different types of interpreters.
- court interpreters
- conference interpreters
- freelance interpreters
- interpreters employed by a business or individual, etc.
You get the idea.
There is no single path to follow if you want to become an interpreter. If this is something you’re interested in pursuing as a career, you’ll need to be sure and take advantage of all the opportunities you have to interpret, so you can decide which type of interpreting is right for you. For example, some people start out part-time before moving on to full-time work.
Court Interpreter Salaries
OK, let’s start off talking about court interpreters. As we all know, here in the United States there are federal court interpreters as well as state court interpreters, and while some interpreters might float from one to the other, others will stick with one. In terms of U.S. federal interpreters, though, they can earn different amounts (last I checked the range was anywhere between $171 and $355 a day, depending on qualifications and experience).
And while interpreter salaries or payment levels are fixed for federal court interpreters, the same is not true for interpreters at the state level. These interpreters can earn varying amounts depending on either the state where they are interpreting or the region in which the court is located.
Here’s an example.
The last time I checked the California court interpreter listings, I noticed that California court interpreter salaries ranged anywhere from $175 to about $265 a day, which is somewhat on par with the amount spent by the federal court system for federal court interpreters. In Utah, however, the state only paid interpreters anywhere between $17.50 to $36.23 an hour.
I’m not sure what the rates for each state are, but if you’re interested in finding out about interpreter salaries and interpreter requirements, a great resource can be found at the National Center for State Courts website.
Two especially important pages on that site are the following:
1) State Interpreter Certification: This page has some great information for anyone interested in becoming a state salaried or contract court interpreter, including exam helps, self-assessment tools, study guide reference materials, glossaries, and practice exam kits.
2) Federal Court Interpreter Certification: This page isn’t as helpful as the State Interpreter Certification page, but it does have some links to information about the Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination.
Conference Interpreter Salaries
Of course, the court system isn’t the only place where potential interpreters can work. A good number of interpreters work as contract interpreters, interpreting for businesses and organizations to provide language work.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are grouped together as an occupation, with a 2010 median pay of around $43,000 per year or around $21 an hour. Since translators and interpreters work as separate professions, it’s hard to know what kind of disparity there is in salary ranges between the two.
One of the great things about being a freelance conference interpreter, however, is that you have the opportunity to set your own rates based on the market segment that you serve.
UN Interpreter Salaries
While United Nations interpreters are also conference interpreters, I’ll include them as a separate category since so many people are interested in working for places like the UN or the European Union.
The United Nations website has a great page that gives information on working as an interpreter for the UN. The requirements are pretty steep since you have to be a native speaker of one of the six UN languages (English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, or Arabic) as well as have near-native proficiency in another UN language.
In terms of UN interpreter salaries, the page notes that:
In accordance with the United Nations common system of salaries, allowances and benefits, the salary of a staff member in the Professional and higher categories is calculated according to his or her grade. The grade determines the “step” of the salary scale and within each step, the actual salary is calculated according to the number of years of relevant experience.
In addition to the basic salary, all staff members are entitled to receive a post allowance, and a hardship allowance, if they are posted to a duty station where conditions are considered difficult.
In addition to working at the UN, a lot of potential conference interpreters are interested in working for the European Union. To be honest, I don’t know very much about jobs in the EU, but if you’re interested in pursuing a career in the EU, make sure to check out the website of the European Personnel Selection Office.
Freelance Interpreters Salary
While a lot of interpreters work as salaried or contract employees for different organizations, many others freelance their services.
The great thing about freelancing is that you can work as much or as little as you want, and you get to set your own rates.
Of course, working as a freelance interpreter has its own challenges, the main one being that you have to be good at marketing and promoting your services.
Another important thing to consider if you’re thinking of working as a freelance interpreter is what kind of insurance you need to protect yourself and your business. However, as a freelance interpreter, you can expect to make around $50-$100 an hour.
In-House Interpreters Salary
Some interpreters work as in-house interpreters for different companies. These positions are usually full-time and come with benefits like health insurance and vacation days.
In-house interpreter positions are great if you want the stability of a full-time job and the benefits that come with it. However, the downside is that you usually have to be based in one location, which can be limiting if you want to travel.
The salary for an in-house interpreter can vary depending on the company that you work for, but the average salary is around $60,000 per year.
To find in-house interpreter positions, the best place to look is on job boards like Indeed or Monster. You can also check out the websites of companies that you’re interested in working for and see if they have any open positions.
As you can see, there is a wide range of interpreter salaries out there, and the amount that you make will depend on a variety of factors, including your experience, the type of interpretation that you do, and whether you work as a freelancer or an employee.
If you’re just starting, I recommend working as an employee for a company or organization so that you can get some experience under your belt. Once you have some experience, you can then start freelancing and setting your own rates.
No matter what route you decide to take, make sure that you’re always learning and expanding your skills so that you can be the best interpreter that you can be.
FAQ – How Much Do Interpreters Make?
Do interpreters make a lot of money?
The salary for an interpreter can vary depending on the company that you work for, but the average salary is around $60,000 per year.
How much do freelance interpreters make?
Freelance interpreters can expect to make around $50-$100 an hour.
How can an interpreter make more money?
To make more money as an interpreter, you can start freelancing and setting your own rates. You can also continue learning and expanding your skills so that you can be the best interpreter that you can be.
Will interpreters continue to be in demand?
Yes, interpreters will continue to be in demand as the world becomes more globalized. In addition, with the rise of new technologies, there will be a need for interpreters who are able to interpret not only spoken language but also written language.