Language Interpreter Employment Information

Mar 16, 2019

If you're interested in a career in language interpreting, then completing an associate or bachelor's degree program in linguistics or a specific language would be a good start. Learn about the education requirements, as well as the salary and employment outlook to see if this is the right job for you.

Career Definition for a Language Interpreter

It's imperative for you to be fluent in at least two languages as a language interpreter. Language interpreters quickly convert and translate messages from one language to a different language. Language interpreters may spend quite a bit of time researching the subject matter they are translating.

Education Associate's or bachelor's in linguistics or a specific foreign language
Job Skills Listening skills, memorization skills, detail-oriented, ability to work independently, analyzation skills
Median Salary (2017)* $47,190 (for interpreters and translators)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 18% (for interpreters and translators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Earning an associate or bachelor's degree in linguistics or audiology or deaf studies is common among future language interpreters. Additionally, it can be helpful to undertake an associate or bachelor's degree program in a specific language, such as English, French or Spanish. These degree programs are typically offered at most colleges and universities and can take up to four years or more to complete. Typical coursework in these degree program areas will commonly include oral communication, literature studies, and cultural diversity in language.

Skills Required

In order to be an effective language interpreter, you'll need to analyze, speak, write, or form sign language gestures fluently. You will also need to have exceptional listening skills, memorization skills, be detailed-oriented, and be able to work well independently.

Career and Economic Outlook for Language Interpreting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, with an annual median salary of $47,190 in 2017, language interpreting salaries are highest in urban areas such as New York City and Washington, D.C., because of increasing immigrant populations. Within these urban areas, language interpreters often secure employment with schools, hospitals and government agencies. Language interpreting employment opportunities are expected to soar 18% from 2016 to 2026.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Court Reporter

Those who enjoy working with language might be interested in this career where professionals attend public events or legal proceedings to accomplish word-for-word transcriptions or provide closed-captioning services for television or public events. A postsecondary non-degree award is the normal route to this career, and the job may require licensing for work in legal settings. The BLS projected slower than average employment growth of 3% from 2016-2026, and this profession offered an annual median salary of $55,120 in 2017.

Medical Transcriptionist

These transcriptionists listen to recorded voices of doctors and other health providers and convert them into writing, often interpreting medical terminology in the process of preparing medical documents. Postsecondary non-degree awards for those with certificates or associate's degrees involving medical coursework is the most common pathway to this career. A decline of 3% from 2016-2026 was predicted by the BLS for this occupation. The BLS reported an annual median wage of $35,250 for medical transcriptionists in 2017.

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