Medical Translator: Job Duties, Salary and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical translator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

In both hospital and corporate settings, medical translators help ensure the health of the populace and of the healthcare industry. Medical translators possess at least a high school diploma, though many candidates seek a degree or complete a medical assistant program. They may also be required to receive certification through an organization such as the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (CMI). Individuals in this profession must be fluent in at least two languages and have an in-depth understanding of medical terminology.

Required Education High school diploma; a degree or completion of medical assistant program may be beneficial
Other Requirements Fluency in at least two languages and knowledge of medical terminology; certification may also be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 46% (for all translators and interpreters)
Mean Salary (2013)* $45,920 annually (for translators and interpreters working in medical and surgical hospitals)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Medical Translator

Medical translators, also known as healthcare translators, are responsible for converting physicians' advice and diagnoses, written patient information, pharmacological instructions, and hospitals' informational brochures into a second language. Some medical translators work for companies that produce medical equipment. Such translators are responsible for translating the instructions of use for the equipment.

Most medical translators are required to convey the necessary information in only one other language, and to do so in writing. As they are not medical or healthcare interpreters, translators are not responsible for assisting patients or healthcare professionals in the physician's office. Instead, they act as the written liaison between company and healthcare professional or healthcare professional and patient.

Responsibilities of a Medical Translator

It is not enough for medical translators to be fluent in two languages. They must understand complex medical terminology and concepts. They are also responsible for conveying complex ideas simply so that a layperson can understand. It is important for such translators to remember that, while some diseases and medical terms have a direct translation in the second language, others have adopted the term from English. They should also be aware of cultural sensitivity issues.

Medical translators are also responsible for ensuring patient-physician confidentiality. As with medical interpreters, medical translators may be called upon to convey personal information in a second language. It is the translator's responsibility to maintain the patient's privacy when doing so.

Salary and Employment Outlook of a Medical Translator

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both salaried translators and interpreters working in the general medical, surgical and hospital fields earned a mean wage of $45,920 per year as of 2013 (www.bls.gov). Since a number of translators work on a freelance or contract basis, the BLS also notes that translators and interpreters in the same fields earn a mean hourly salary of $22.08 an hour. The BLS mentioned that the employment of all types of interpreters and translators could grow by as much as 46% from 2012-2022.

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