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Court Interpreter: Job Information and Career Requirements

Working alongside judges, attorneys and lawyers, a court interpreter assists individuals who are not capable of or who are averse to communicating in English with legal matters that arise. If translating for non-English speakers in a court of law sounds like a rewarding career, read on to learn details of the training, salary and employment outlook.

Career Definition of a Court Interpreter

Citizens or immigrants who are incapable of or reluctant to converse in English in a court of law require the help of a court interpreter to convey the nature and meaning of all conversational aspects between those in the courtroom. Not only is an expert knowledge of both English and a foreign language required for court interpreters, but so is the ability to communicate and understand legal terminology at meetings, preliminary hearings, depositions, trials and verdicts. Occasionally, court reporting demands that written documents be translated and read aloud in both languages.

Educational and Licensing Requirements Bachelor's degree recommended, certification through self-testing could be an advantage
Job Skills Fluency in multiple languages, a professional and personable attitude, and excellent communication skills
Median Salary (2017) $47,190 (all interpreters and translators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 18% (all interpreters and translators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The number one requirement for becoming a court interpreter is being fluent in multiple languages in order to converse among the client, the judge, the attorneys and all other parties involved in the courtroom. This can be achieved through coursework that focuses in law, English and a foreign language. Most court interpreters receive a bachelor degree at either a college or university in the language the court interpreter plans on working with. While certification isn't a necessity, testing oneself through the various examinations that are available can be beneficial for employment in court interpreting.

Skills Required

A solid grasp of the languages the court interpreter is fluent in is a must have, which includes technical concepts, vocabulary, modern usage and vernacular of the language. Maintaining a confident attitude and a personable demeanor while keeping an alertness of target audiences helps court interpreters communicate easier with the different groups involved.

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary reported for all interpreters and translators was $47,190 in May 2017. The field of court interpreting is expected to grow at a much faster than average rate at 18% from 2016-2026, due to an increase in the immigrant population migrating to the United States. Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles and other large urban areas may provide the best employment possibilities for court interpreters due to concentrations of non-English speaking immigrants in these locations.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Court Reporter

By completing a program lasting from six months up to four years, and earning a license for working in legal settings, court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions of public speaking events or legal proceedings. In addition, some provide closed captioning for television, movies or public events. A slower than average job growth of 3% was projected for this career, from 2016-2026 by the BLS. As of May 2017, these reporters earned an annual median wage of $55,120, the BLS reported.

Technical Writer

Most technical writers have a bachelor degree in English, communication or journalism, in addition to experience in technical subjects like engineering or computer science. They then find employment writing instruction manuals containing complicated technical information, for customers and manufacturers. The BLS predicted an 11% increase of employment, from 2016-2026, and reported an annual median salary of $70,930 in 2017.


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