Language Interpreter and Translator Salary Overview
The median annual language interpreter and translator salary in the United States in May 2008 was $38,850. The middle 50 percent of interpreters and translators tended to earn between $28,940 and $52,240, while the lowest 10 percent of the interpreter and translator salary less than $22,170. However, the highest 10 percent of interpreters and translators took home an annual wage of more than $69,190. The Federal Government also offers employment to a number of language interpreters and translators, and language specialists working for the government could expect an average annual wage that was more than twice the national median wage at $79,865 in March 2009.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
The overall job outlook for language interpreters and translators is positive; people employed in these fields can expect employment growth that is significantly faster than that in the average employment sector in the United States. However, the prospects for employment will vary according to the specialty and language chosen by a language interpreter and translator.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Language interpreters and translators capable of working with frequently demanded languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German, will remain highly sought out in the near future, as should translators and interpreters of a number of Middle Eastern and East Asian languages, such as Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. There should also be a rapid increase in demand for interpreters of American Sign Language due to increases in video technology that allows people to communicate over long distances through the internet, video calls, and sign language interpreters.
Training and Education Requirements
The basic requirement for being a language interpreter or translator is fluency in at least two languages. The educational background of an interpreter or a translator may vary considerably, but it is generally considered a good idea to possess a bachelor’s degree. A number of translators and interpreters additionally complete training programs that are specific to their jobs. Regarding the backgrounds of interpreters and translators, while it is not necessary for a successful worker in the field to have been raised in a bilingual environment, it is important to note that many interpreters and translators working in the field grew up in environments where they frequently spoke two languages.
Students can begin to prepare for careers in translation and interpretation as early as in high school, when they may begin foreign language courses, as well as courses in writing and comprehension and computer proficiency. It is also helpful to read extensively on numerous subjects and spend time abroad or in environments where the languages potential translators and interpreters wish to learn are spoken to increase familiarity and fluency. It is not necessary to major in a language to work with it as a translator or as an interpreter, although some people in the field do so successfully.
In the United States, it is currently not necessary to obtain any universal form of certification to work as a language interpreter and translator. However, there are a number of different tests and examinations interpreters and translators can complete to demonstrate their proficiencies in various areas; certifications from completing these tests and examinations may make such candidates more appealing to potential employers in different fields. As an example, the American Translators Association can provide certification in 24 different languages beyond English to help its members demonstrate their competencies.
Courts linked to the Federal Government offer numerous forms of certification for particular languages, including Spanish, French, and Navajo, allowing language interpreters to work in such settings. Many municipal and state courts also offer similar versions of certification. Regarding court interpretations, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators offers its own certification for such procedures.
A language interpreter and translator may obtain certification from a number of different professional organizations and associations in the field. The major associations are listed below.
- The American Literary Translators Association
- The American Translators Association
- The Canadian Translators and Interpreters Council
- Federation Internationale des Traducteurs
- Japan Association of Translators
- National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators
- Society for Technical Communication
- Society of Federal Linguists
- The Translators and Interpreters Guild
Benefits of Becoming a Freelance Translator
Translation is one of the fields where are you have the option to choose. You can decide that you want to work for yourself and freelance in this field. There is a beautiful tension in our world right now where freelancing is becoming more and more popular. This means setting your own hours, deciding which jobs you will choose, and specifically with translating, you can even travel the world to do it.
Many people search for the most comfortable and secure jobs when they’re going into the workforce. But with freelance translating, you have so much freedom as well as ability to make as much money as you would like. More people are realizing that freelancing is the best option for those who want to travel the world or have flexibility or work from wherever, whenever. No matter your life needs, freelance translating could be the perfect career for you.
You Work for Yourself
This is quite a heavy task because that means everything is on you. Your taxes, putting money into a savings and benefits accounts, when you will work, etc. But it also means you have the autonomy. You are able to be responsible for your work as well as enjoy work as much as you want. You don’t have to answer to someone else or try to stay out of the line of fire with your coworkers. You can decide when you’re going to work in the day and you don’t have to take on more than you can handle. You can also decide how much you will charge for your services which is one of the best parts of freelance work.
Freelancing as a translator means you’ll be able to be flexible in whatever you decide you want to take on. You can determine how you will spend your time as well as reach new heights through conferences and by attending workshops. The amount that you make will depend on the amount that you work and this can be both a blessing and a curse, so you will have to use this flexibility wisely. You’ll be able to decide how productive you want to be and you can work early or late if you want.
One of the best reasons people go into freelancing is so that they can stay with their children at home. Being at home is a dream if you have a little ones. Being able to pick them up from school and send them off can be a really incredible thing. Another great part of flexibility as a translator is that you can go anywhere to work. Want to work in the coffee shop? Go for it! Want to join a co-share? Check it out! You are able to work wherever you want, you can even work from your bed if you decide.
Take on Projects You like
One of the best parts of freelancing is being able to take on projects you are genuinely interested in. When you work for a company or corporation, you have to work with whatever they give you. You don’t get to pick and choose. But when you work as a freelancer, you can choose not to work for somebody who you know doesn’t pay well or doesn’t treat their people well. You can choose to take on more projects or less, if you like. You are not limited to what a company is telling you to do when you freelance.
You Find Your Clients
Being able to find your clients is going to be a challenge, but it will also be an incredibly worthwhile one. You can get with a translation agency that will help you or you can simply do it on your own. To do it by yourself, cold email or cold call different organizations that might need a translator as well as the look through directories for conferences are find contacts through word-of-mouth and networking. Finding your loyal clients will help you to get your career off the ground as a freelancer and keep them coming your way for years to come. Make sure you are constantly looking for clients in at least one or two of these ways. You never know when a contract will end or when your services will no know longer be needed, so it is always good to have more rather than less connections.
You Can Travel the World
Traveling the world is a dream for many. When you think about people who get to travel the world for their career, you might think of bloggers or people who consider themselves to be influencers and have these dream jobs that are nothing like yours. But you would be wrong! Translating is something you can do all over the world. If you want to live in a different country every few months, translating is perfect for you. If you want to go around the states, translating is perfect for you. If you are married to someone whose career takes them far and wide, you could become a translator and work from anywhere. This is one of the benefits and beauties of freelance translating.
You Can Do It at Any Age
My father has worked for the county for 30 years of his career. He has given sweat, blood, and tears to various aspects of it and now that he’s about to retire, he’s decided to become a freelance translator after he retires from the county. Because he speaks a second language, he plans on using this gift to do this work. He is currently taking courses and getting certified so that he is at his best when he does this. Not everyone who speaks another language can translate, this is a skill you will need to acquire. But it can be done at any point in your life.This is a huge blessing for someone who is scared that they are too old or are unsure if they can switch their career paths. If you are rethinking your career or want to try something new, you can become a freelance translator, especially if you already have a second language under your belt.
Final Thoughts on the Language Interpreter and Translator Salary
A number of factors affect the potential language interpreter and translator salary, such as the language being translated or interpreted, the subject matter being discussed, the skill of the translator or interpreter, the experience he or she brings to the translation or interpretation, the education level of the person involved, the number of certifications the person has achieved, and the type of employer for whom the language interpreter or translator will work. As a result, there can be a wide variance in the annual wage a language interpreter and translator may expect. Translators and interpreters who are familiar with high demand languages, such as Spanish, or relatively rarely known languages, such as Arabic or Korean, can expect to command higher earnings than translators and interpreters who are familiar with low demand languages. Interpreters who work in areas where higher levels of skill are required, such as during conferences and meetings, can also expect to command higher annual salaries. Another profession where being bilingual is a good thing to have on your resume is Travel Agent.
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