Interpreters and Translators
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Overview
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Interpret oral or sign language, or translate written text from one language into another.
Titles for this career often contain these words
InterpreterTranslatorLanguageSignEnglishCourtCertifiedDeafSpanishAmericanASLBrailleBilingualTranscriberSpecialistMedicalConferenceLinguistHardHearingDiplomaticEducationalFreelanceStaffRIDArabicAudioNarratorSecretaryTactileGraphicsCryptologicOralForeignFullTimeHourlyforBosniaAlbanianOfficialParaprofessionalPerDiemRussianConsultantSuperiorTechnicalVietnamese
Education
About 52% of interpreters and translators have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by interpreters and translators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More interpreters and translators have bachelor's degrees than 68% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Interpreters and translators, with 76,100 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for interpreters and translators are expected to grow by 19%, and should have about 9,800 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Interpreters and translators are less likely to be automated than 62% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for interpreters and translators compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most interpreters and translators earn.
$52K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Gender
Women account for 67% of interpreters and translators -- that's a larger percentage than 79% of other jobs.
Gender of interpreters and translators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For interpreters and translators, the median men's salary was 19% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 24% of interpreters and translators are minority, and 38% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of interpreters and translators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (38%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Interpreters and Translators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of interpreters and translators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (46%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (40%)
  • Consequence of Error (37%)
SOURCES:
Salary and diversity
What do interpreters and translators earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries. This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for interpreters and translators (BLS Salary Data)
$52K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$52K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for interpreters and translators (ACS Salary Data)
$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Broadcast announcers, interpreters, and other media and communication workers: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $44KAll jobs' median $45K$42K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire interpreters and translators.
Employers of Interpreters and Translators (ACS)
Private for-profit (43.0%)
Private not-for-profit (11.1%)
Local government (13.9%)
State government (7.8%)
Federal government (8.5%)
Self-employed incorporated (4.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (11.6%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of interpreters and translators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$41K$41K$38K$42K$41K$51K$41K$49K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of interpreters and translators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$52K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for interpreters and translators

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$46K$46K$48K$42K$51K$46K$33K$26K$42K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
02K4K6K8K10K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Interpreters and translators and gender

With 67% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 79% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
67%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Interpreters and translators
Men (33%)
Women (67%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for interpreters and translators, with the median salary for men 19% higher than the median salary for women.

$39K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men.

19%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of interpreters and translators

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. There is a higher percentage of minority interpreters and translators than for 65% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of interpreters and translators
White (69% )
Asian (11% )
Black (8% )
Other (7% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
24%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
38%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for interpreters and translators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$33K$39K$42K$43K$45K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KOtherMultiracialWhiteBlackAsian
Distribution: Salaries for interpreters and translators by nativity
$40K$42K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Interpreters and translators and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 40% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 90% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
40%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time interpreters and translators is shown following.

$16K$41K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by interpreters and translators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interpreters and translators typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as interpreters and translators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for interpreters and translators

A bachelor’s degree is typically needed to become an interpreter or translator along with proficiency in at least two languages, one of which is usually English.

High school students interested in becoming an interpreter or translator should take a broad range of courses that focus on foreign languages and English writing and comprehension.  

Beyond high school, people interested in becoming interpreters or translators have numerous educational options. Those in college typically choose a specific language as their major, such as Spanish or French. Although many jobs require a bachelor’s degree, majoring in a language is not always necessary.

Through community organizations, students interested in sign language interpreting may take introductory classes in American Sign Language (ASL) and seek out volunteer opportunities to work with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for interpreters and translators

There is currently no universal certification required of interpreters and translators beyond passing the required court interpreting exams offered by most states. However, workers can take a variety of tests that show proficiency. For example, the American Translators Association provides certification in 29 language combinations.

The federal courts offer court interpreter certification for Spanish language interpreters. At the state level, the courts offer certification in at least 20 languages.

The National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf jointly offer certification for general sign language interpreters. In addition, the registry offers specialty tests in legal interpreting, speech reading, and deaf-to-deaf interpreting—which includes interpreting among deaf speakers of different native languages and from ASL to tactile signing.

The U.S. Department of State has a three-test series for prospective interpreters—one test in simple consecutive interpreting (for escort work), another in simultaneous interpreting (for court work), and a third in conference-level interpreting (for international conferences)—as well as a test for prospective translators. These tests are not considered a credential, but their completion indicates that a person has significant skill in the occupation. The National Virtual Translation Center and many other organizations also have testing programs.

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters offers two types of certifications for healthcare interpreters: Associate Healthcare Interpreter, for interpreters of languages other than Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin; and Certified Healthcare Interpreter, for interpreters of Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin.

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters offers certification for medical interpreters of Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese languages.

Education attained by interpreters and translators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for interpreters and translators? Below we see the distribution of interpreters and translators salaries based on the education attained.

$35K$31K$34K$37K$47K$52K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNone (2%)High School (13%)Some College (21%)Associate's/Cert. (12%)Bachelor's Degree (34%)Master's Degree (15%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

College majors held by interpreters and translators

This table shows the college majors held by people working as interpreters and translators.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Percentage of Interpreters and translators with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as interpreters and translators, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

Elementary and Middle Sch...Postsecondary TeachersSecondary School TeachersLawyers, and judges, magi...Specialized ManagersEducation and childcare a...PhysiciansSecretaries and Administr...Customer Service Represen...Accountants and AuditorsInterpreters and Translat...First-Line Supervisors of...EditorsWriters and AuthorsWholesale and Manufacturi...Labor Relations Specialis...Marketing ManagersRetail SalespersonsSpecial Education Teacher...Preschool and Kindergarte...Teaching AssistantsSpecialized Social Worker...Educational, Guidance, an...Specialized PsychologistsRegistered NursesFinancial ManagersChief executives and legi...First-Line Supervisors of...Management AnalystsParalegals and Legal Assi...Sales ManagersMarket Research Analysts ...Sales Representatives of ...French, German, Latin, &Common Foreign LanguageStudiesLinguistics andComparative Language andLiteratureEnglish Language andLiteratureCommunicationsGeneral EducationPsychologyBusiness Management andAdministrationPolitical Science andGovernmentMarketingGeneral BusinessAll other degreesThis jobTop 10 majorsEach major's top ten jobs
What college major is your best entry?

About 52% of people working as interpreters and translators have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%1.0%2.0%3.0%4.0%5.0%6.0%7.0%8.0%Percentage with this major$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000$140,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for interpreters and translators

What jobs will most interpreters and translators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of interpreters and translators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Broadcast announcers, interpreters, and other media and communicationworkersNews Analysts, Reporters, and JournalistsSpecialized Entertainers, Sports and Related WorkersProducers and DirectorsSpecialized Media and Communication Equipment Workers
Lateral job transitions for interpreters and translators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 2 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as interpreters and translators as well as 1% of respondents after working as interpreters and translators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for interpreters and translators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as interpreters and translators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of interpreters and translators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most interpreters and translators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as interpreters and translators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Interpreters and Translators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.20.40.60.81.01.2
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where interpreters and translators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for interpreters and translators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for interpreters and translators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Interpreters and Translators (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which interpreters and translators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEWIVTNHWAIDMTNDMNILMINYMAORUTWYSDIAINOHPANJCTRICANVCONEMOKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?