Spanish Interpreter: Salary and Career Facts

As an interpreter, you will help people communicate and ensure that messages are understood between parties who speak Spanish and English. Find out more about specific requirements and qualifications for this career, useful educational backgrounds and potential salary. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Spanish Interpreter?

A Spanish interpreter's job is to convert Spanish to English or English to Spanish. You may interpret the spoken or written word. You must be proficient in both languages so you can easily and quickly translate what is being communicated.

You may interpret simultaneously or consecutively. Simultaneous interpreting means you are translating as another person is speaking. Consecutive interpreting involves taking notes on what is being said and then converting it to the other language.

This job requires you to follow ethical standards, keep information confidential, resolve cultural or communication conflicts and maintain the meaning of interpreted messages. You may have to do research to ensure proper translation of words and edit written materials. Below, the table provides some addition information about this career:

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree or certificate
Education Field of Study Spanish, interpretation
Key Responsibilities Translate and interpret Spanish into a second language and vice versa, help people communication, understand field specific terminology
Licensure Requirements Optional for some interpreting fields, like legal interpretation
Job Growth (2014-2024*) 29% (for all interpreters and translators)
Median Salary (2015)* $44,190 (for all interpreters and translators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where Can I Find Work?

Spanish interpreters are needed when two or more people need to communicate, but one or more do not speak Spanish. You may work in different settings such as courtrooms, hospitals or businesses. There are also opportunities for employment in entertainment, schools and government agencies.

You may work as an interpreter for groups or individuals. You may also work in a specialty area where you will need training in industry specific terminology and vocabulary. For example, legal or medical interpreters must be familiar with the specific language used in these settings.

What Are the Education Requirements?

A good foundation in the Spanish language is required for the job, so if you do not feel confident in your Spanish skills you may consider starting your education by earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in Spanish and then follow up with training in interpreting. If you feel confident in your language skills then you can focus on getting a degree in interpretation. Certificate programs, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in Spanish interpretation can prepare you for the job. There are also training programs available in specialty areas such as medical interpretation.

Are There Other Qualifications Needed?

An internship can be an option to gain experience, and many interpreters will enter a mentorship to help them acquire experience and knowledge in the field. Professional certification, though not a requirement of most employers, can serve as demonstrated proof of skills and abilities. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) offers the CCHI Spanish Certified Healthcare Interpreter certification, which is available once an examination is passed.

If you are interested in legal interpretation, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators offers a certification as well, which demonstrates language skills and judiciary-related knowledge. Another option is the Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter certification examination, which tests interpreting skills, language skills and judiciary knowledge in written and oral exams.

What Could I Earn?

The median annual salary for interpreters and translators as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $44,190. Annual reported wages for the bottom tenth percentile were $23,160 and the top tenth percentile were $78,520 (www.bls.gov). A February 2017 search on Salary.com revealed numerous healthcare-related translator positions. Salary.com reports the national median annual salary for a medical translator as $42,232.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are good with words or fluent in multiple languages, you could also choose to work as a court reporter. Court reporters have similar job duties to interpreters, as they are responsible for creating verbatim transcripts of court proceedings. Another career option to consider is that of a technical writer. This involves creating documents to explain complex processes, such as instruction manuals and journal articles. It is possible to become a court reporter by completing a certificate program, though technical writers have often earned at least a bachelor's degree.

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:

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