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  • A Look at Translator Salaries for 2020

    Certified Translation

    2020 has already proven to be a year that none of us will soon forget. With the amount of upheaval facing the world this year, it is hard to say exactly what the salaries for any profession will look like. With that said, we can still take a look at the most recent estimates and hope that industry holds the course. 


    Luckily, translation is a profession that will always be required as long as businesses, laws, and websites plan on functioning across the language barriers. Another benefit, as a recent Forbes article put it, is that translation is a "portfolio career," which allows you to work with a higher amount of freedom. Still, as of mid-2020, more reports continue to come in of possible layoffs and furloughs.


    All of this makes for a rather chaotic picture that we are going to do our best to parse through.


    Understanding What a Translator Is


    Before we spend too much time talking about how much translators are earning, we should take a minute to define who we are talking about. For example, a translator is different from an interpreter. Although these terms may often be confusing, these two professions have different tasks to accomplish and earn different amounts through the fiscal year.


    A translator specializes in taking written information, as well as legal documentation, and putting it into another language. Translators typically have significant amounts of specialized training, especially those who work in medical or technical translation fields.


    Translators must be very skilled in knowing vocabulary and wordplay. The same skills that make for good authors and diplomats make for good translators.


    It is worth noting that specialized translators will always be in high demand and make for an even better "portfolio career," as these low competition jobs can withstand a great deal of economic uncertainty. 



    Average Translator Salary in US for 2020:


    We will be focusing on the average translator salary in US markets for the majority of this article. With a large amount of the work for translation moving online, the average translator salary in the US will gradually come more in line with wages elsewhere and industry specialty will matter more than geographical location.

    The translator average salary data for the current year will likely not give us a very good indication of what to expect in 2021 due to the unique nature of this year's issues. Even so, we must use data compiled over the years of 2018-2019 for lack of anything better to work from.

    The average hourly wage for a translator in the United States (more than 1-2 years experience) is $28-$30 an hour. Translator salary in the US per year maps out on par with that.


    The average hourly wage for a translator in the United States is just shy of $30 an hour.


    A basic translator can expect roughly $19 an hour, while more specialized experts can often earn triple that amount. Translator job salary heavily depends on whether the translator is a general translator or has a unique skill set. At the same time, an in-house corporate translator salary will be different from a freelancer, whose salary in turn will differ from that of a medical translator. 

    • An unspecialized translator certified by the American Translators Association often earns above $50 an hour. There is no rule that says a corporate translator salary will pay more than a freelancer contract either.
    • 50% of translators are earning between $13 and $32, while in some cases, translators with incredibly high demand skills can earn over $90 per hour. 
    • We saw an average translator salary per year of $49,930 in 2018. Translator salary per year numbers in 2018 and 2019 ranged mostly between $35k and $65k, with the average corporate translator salary coming in at roughly $50k ($48,314). 


    Remember: Translator job salary will be dependent on location, industry and the language combination. Translator job salary can vary greatly even with only a slight variation of these three factors.


    Estimated Average Translator Salary by Language


    This is a quick look at how various popular languages for translation stack up by pay. Keep in mind that these numbers do not reflect the number of jobs, or the unique industries these languages may be more heavily involved in. 


    Average German translator salary for 2020:


    The average German translator salary we are currently looking at is $45,000 per year. While there are few German speakers in the United States, this actually works in the translators' favor as the country's financial output is still immense. This means there is a lot of financial incentive to learn German and little competition. 


    Average Arabic translator jobs salary for 2020:


    The average Arabic translator jobs salary we are currently looking at is $40,000. Work in Arabic can change drastically in terms of pay, ranging from walk-on government workers to translators for international business moguls. Spending time working your way up and proving your worth in Arabic can eventually pay off greatly.


    Average French translator jobs salary for 2020:


    The average French translator jobs salary we are currently looking at is $43,000 per year. France still has one of the largest tourism industries on the planet and the language continues to be a source of wonder for people worldwide. There are also French enclaves on every continent.


    Average Chinese translator salary for 2020:


    The average Chinese translator salary we are currently looking at is $55,000 per year. Mandarin is spoken by billions worldwide, and the numbers will continue to grow exponentially ⁠—as will the buying power of the language. Learning Mandarin has long been a way to 'future-proof' your job prospects. Even a mediocre worker who speaks Mandarin is worth keeping around in today's business climate.


    Don't get confused:


    Keep in mind this is only a reflection of the English to second language combinations. Other combinations with these languages will vary in their demand. We also rounded these numbers a bit to make it easier to read and digest

    You should also keep in mind that these are for translators and not interpreters. An Italian interpreter's salary will be different from an Italian translator salary. If you want to find what an Italian interpreter salary is, or any interpreter's salary is, you will need to evaluate a whole new set of factors and numbers than what was used for a translator.

    The numbers and stats listed here are a rough aggregate from information on various sites like Slator.com, Payscale.com, Salary.com, Forbes and ZipRecruiter. 


    While we are still unsure of what the future translator average salary will look like, it is safe to say that the numbers for 2020 are not going to give us a reliable outlook for future trends (due to the novel nature of many of the events). These numbers will be the best we will have to go on for translator average salary data for some time.