Court Interpreter: Career Definition, Employment Outlook and Education Requirements

A court interpreter, also known as a legal interpreter, communicates with and for people who cannot speak in English. To become a court interpreter, you must be fluent in at least one language other than English and have a bachelor's degree, in most cases. Continue reading for more details on this career field. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

The need for interpreters is related to the increasingly multicultural background of United States citizens, an expanding number of global transactions in the marketplace and diplomatic relations. In particular, legal interpreters are in demand. Fluency in a foreign language is required, and a bachelor's degree is usually needed. English is typically one of the essential languages these interpreters must speak.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (doesn't necessarily have to be in a second language)
Certification Certification is available in over 29 language combinations from the American Translators Association. Spanish language court interpreter certification is offered by the federal courts.
Average Salary (2017)* $51,790 (all interpreters and translators)
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 18% (much faster than average)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Court Interpreter?

A court interpreter helps attorneys and judges communicate with people who are not able to speak English. Interpreters are needed in numerous legal situations, including meetings between clients and lawyers, depositions, hearings and arraignments. The role of a court interpreter requires that he or she be familiar with legal terminology and procedures. In addition to interpreting spoken conversation, court interpreters may also be responsible for translating and reading written files.

What is the Employment Outlook for Court Interpreters?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 68,200 interpreters and translators employed in various industries in 2016. The expected growth in employment for interpreters and translators over the time period of 2016-2026 is 18%, which is much faster than the national average growth rate.

The BLS reports that the annual average salary for all interpreters and translators in May of 2017 was approximately $51,790. Wages depend on a number of criteria, including experience, certification and language. California and Texas have the highest levels of employment for interpreters and translators, but those who work in Washington D.C. earn higher pay, per the BLS in 2017.

What Education Requirements Are Necessary to Become a Court Interpreter?

Most interpreters hold a bachelor's degree in a second language, such as a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. A bachelor's degree in another field, such as criminal justice, finance or business, may help lead to a more specialized position.

There are also programs that provide training specifically in court interpretation, but these are more common at the certificate level. Some court interpreting programs are focused on English/Spanish interpretation or another language. A certificate program could help you find entry-level employment, or it could help you more easily transition into a court interpreting career if you already hold a relevant bachelor's degree. If you want to earn an advanced degree, you can consider a Master of Arts in Translation and Interpretation. Here's what some of the courses may cover:

  • Court procedures
  • Simultaneous interpreting
  • Consecutive interpreting
  • Translation for interpreters

If you're interested in pursuing this career field, you can build your interpreting skills by traveling internationally or interacting with people locally who speak a foreign language. Some people practice by volunteering with community organizations to serve as an interpreter or translator.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Grand Canyon University

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    • Master

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  • Purdue University Global

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    • Master
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  • New England College

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  • Colorado Technical University

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  • Regent University

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