Corporations, government agencies and universities depend on interpreters to ensure accurate communication between people who speak different languages. Some interpreters relay messages simultaneously along with speakers, while others take notes and deliver messages when discussions conclude. If you want to become an interpreter, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree related the industry in which you work. In return, you can expect to earn a salary averaging more than $50,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for an interpreter was $53,410 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned more than $91,800 annually. To become an interpreter, you will likely need the minimum of a bachelor's degree in language, speech, English, communication or even business, depending on your field. Employers usually prefer that you have some experience as an interpreter -- one or more years, for example. Becoming certified can also increase your changes of getting a job. For example, you might consider getting certified as an interpreter for the hearing impaired through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Interpreters may also get certified as judiciary, health-care or conference interpreters. Other important requirements for this job are the ability to speak fluent English, dexterity, cultural sensitivity and concentration, listening, speaking, writing and business skills.
Salary by Employer Type
Interpreter's salaries can vary significantly according to the types of employers for which they work. They earned some of the highest salaries of $74,290 working for the federal government, according to 2012 BLS data. For example, the president and member of congress need interpreters when speaking with foreign dignitaries. Interpreters also earned above-average salaries at mental health and substance abuse facilities and colleges and universities -- $62,390 and $58,560 per year, respectively. If you worked as an interpreter for a local government agency, you'd make $49,320 annually. At elementary and secondary schools, you'd only earn $41,560.
State and District Salaries
In 2012, interpreters earned the highest annual salaries in Virginia, according to the BLS -- $90,900. They also earned relatively high salaries in Maine and Maryland at $62,350 and $62,010 per year, respectively. If you worked as an interpreter in Washington, D.C., or California, you'd earn an average salary of $51,950 or $51,340, respectively. In Texas, you'd make $46,190 annually. Salaries for interpreters in South Dakota and Arizona were considerably less at $38,500 and $35,880, respectively.
Exceptional Job Outlook
The BLS predicts a 42 percent increase in jobs for interpreters and translators from 2010 to 2020, which is three times the national growth rate for all occupations. Strong demand for American sign language interpreters for video relay services should spur much of the job growth for these professionals. Video relays enable people to translate and interpret while sending or receiving messages via video conference calls. Businesses will need interpreters as they export more products to foreign nations.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Interpreters and Translators Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become an Interpreter or Translator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Interpreters and Translators: Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Interpreters and Translators
- United Nations Careers: Interpreters
- Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images