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  • How Much Do Translators and Interpreters Make in 2020

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    With the tumultuous times of 2020 and the speed at which technology is changing the modern workplace, more people than ever are looking for alternative forms of income or even whole new professions. The language industry is one such place that many have turned their attention to in recent times. Both translators and interpreters have been able to continue their work from home and have seen an increase in opportunities as the need for fast, certified language experts has grown to match the globalization and digitization of the modern workplace.


    While every industry took a hit in 2020, interpreters and translators were doing well before and are well situated to take advantage of the changes currently occurring in our workplaces.


    The world is more interconnected than ever, and trained professionals able to bridge the language gap are becoming invaluable to businesses of all types, shapes, and sizes. With that said, the internet has been awash with questions regarding both interpreters and translators' pay rates. We will take a look at the best information available regarding pay rates and find out just how much professional interpreters and translators make.


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    Understanding Interpreters Vs. Translators


    Before we get too deep into the weeds regarding pay rates, we should first go over exactly what each of these professions entails. While many often mistakenly use the terms translator and interpreter interchangeably, these are actually different professions with different roles.


    • An interpreter has been specifically trained to take the spoken word (verbal messages) from one language and transfer it into another. Interpreters tend to be interacting in real-time in situations such as court settings or business meetings.


    • A translator is one whose skillsets revolve around taking and converting written text from one language into another. Skilled translators are needed for the many legal, medical, and business documents that move from one country into another and are often required to be highly trained for such complex tasks.


    You can think of the inherent difference somewhat the same way a writer differs from a public speaker. While they are both language-based, the skills required to do the job properly are ultimately quite different. Exact word-for-word translation or interpretations between two very different languages and cultures is quite rare and will often not convey the proper meaning. Both jobs require one who understands the cultural terms, expressions, and idioms of a language in its given context and must use nuance and critical thinking to properly re-convey the meaning in their given medium.


    Finding the Typical Salary for Interpreters and Translators


    While 2020 may have been rough around the board, U.S. Translator and Interpreter Salaries Rose 3.8% in 2019 and are likely to see similar increases in the years to come. With that said, there is a wide gap between beginning language experts and those with years of experience or a specialized set of skills.

    We will be looking generally at these jobs and answering some of the most common questions about specialized skill sets. These numbers will give you a ROUGH idea about what to expect for each profession (as location, industry, experience, and a myriad of other factors will likely dictate your exact pay rate).

    To get to the bottom of pay rates, we will be looking at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the popular sites Salary.com and Glassdoor.com. Some of the data will be based on 2019 rates, with the latest data given more weight.


    How Much Money Do Translators Make in 2020


    The median pay for a translator with a Bachelor’s degree*, when collated between the major sites, comes out to roughly $50,000/year (or about $25/hr). Depending on your location and years of experience, this rate will adjust to fit somewhere between $30k to $70k a year.

    Something else to keep in mind is that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks this job very high in terms of availability and security.


    How Much Do Interpreters Make in 2020


    On average, interpreters make a roughly comparable wage to translators (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics actually lumps them together) with an average salary also around $50,000/year but with a slightly different floor and ceiling of $35k to $65k a year.


    While both jobs (translators and interpreters) can have drastically different pay rates depending on location and specialization, either profession's general entry-level position will net you roughly the same earnings on average.


    *Although interpreters and translators often need a bachelor's degree, the essential requirement is having native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language." -U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


    Common Pay Questions for Medical, Legal, and Other Professional Language Specializations


    Now that we have covered the general pay rates, we can look at some more specialized language professions. This is a small snapshot to give you an idea of the range of variation in these professions.



    How Much Do Court Interpreters Make?


    Legal or judiciary interpreters usually work as independent contractors. Still, the average for a court interpreter is slightly higher than a general interpreter, with an average salary falling somewhere between $35,000/year and $75,000/year depending on the State and county one is working and time on the job.


    How Much Do Legal Translators Make?


    For translators who specialize in court and legal matters, the pay rate is also slightly increased with a higher ceiling rate than the typical translator would experience. These jobs see an average salary that falls somewhere within $30,000/year and $80,000/year depending on the State and the translator's experience.


    How Much Do Medical Interpreters Make?


    Earning a medical interpreter certification is often a way for professionals like registered nurses to augment their income or as a way for freelance interpreters to achieve a higher income. These wages are highly dependent on the area you are working; a hospital interpreter in Washington DC earns an annual salary of $85,000 which is somewhat higher than the national average of $80k. This can be hard to nail down since many medical interpreters are doctors, RNs, social workers, hospital administrators augmenting their income.


    How Much Do Medical Translators Make?


    For many of the same reasons (freelancing, considerable locational variation), it is also hard to pin down an exact average for medical translators. According to GlassDoor.com, the range between a starting position and an experienced medical translator will range between $31,000/year and $80,000/year.


    So do interpreters make good money? Do translators? While the average pay rate for interpreters and translators is average for a US salary, those with medical or legal experience and multiple years of practice, and a good track record, can make up to double that amount in a year.


    Language Combination is also a Hidden Factor for Pay Rate


    Another reason many of these pay rates may be way off from what you experience is the language combination you may be capable of translating. Not every language is as in demand, and not every language has many competent translators or interpreters. If you can take translations from Spanish into Mandarin, you will have a much different set of job opportunities and pay rates than someone who translates from English into Spanish and vice-versa. For example, an experienced Mandarin-speaking translator can earn up to $70/hr in the U.S., while a Spanish translator of the same skill level will be expecting something closer to $50/hr (keeping in mind the amount of available work may counteract these bumps in pay).


    It would help if you looked into the specific languages you are proficient in to get a better idea of what you can expect to be paid for that language versus the average wage. Ask questions like "How much do Spanish interpreters make?" "How much do ASL interpreters make?" and see where within the averages they land. You can then begin to see how further certifications (like legal or medical certs) can boost that combination and its earnings.


    Certifications are Another Key to Great Pay


    Federal interpreters and translators are classified into three groups, skilled, professional, and certified. Certified interpreters often make double the rate of ‘skilled’ interpreters.

    According to the American Translators Association, translators in the US who get certified by the ATA earn almost $10,000 more a year than those without similar accreditation.


    Translation and Interpretation are In-Demand and Pay Well


    As we have shown, it can be difficult to pin down the exact wages for a profession with so many variables. This article, however, should go a long way towards helping you understand what goes into evaluating a language expert's worth. You should also be able to see how such professions, with the right investment of time, education, and certifications, can actually be quite lucrative. If you are bilingual, you have an open path to a great profession.


    For those needing translation services, The Spanish Group is a highly recommended and internationally recognized and certified service specializing in getting you exactly what you need. From translation to notarization to apostilles. Start today!