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What Is the Average Entry-Level Salary of an Interpreter?

If you have bilingual language skills and the desire to use those skills to help people communicate, a job as an interpreter may be a good fit for you. Read on to learn about the entry-level average interpreter salary, as well as the education and training required for the job.

Job Requirements

The first step in becoming an interpreter or translator is learning your native language well. For most people in the United States, this means paying attention in English class. Once you've begun your mastery of English, it's time to choose your second language(s). Many interpreters start learning second languages at home from bilingual or multilingual parents. However, it is also possible to learn other languages in high school or college. In your effort to become fluent in a foreign language, try volunteering for a community organization or offer to tutor younger students in the languages you speak. A college degree may help you secure employment.

Important Facts About Interpreters

Required Education Bachelor's Degree
Key Skills Interpersonal Communication, Global Awareness, Reading and Writing
Work Environment Office Setting
Similar Occupations Translator, Court Reporter, Technical Writer

Salary Overview

Potential interpreter (or translator) salaries depend on factors that include training, education and experience. According to data it released in May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed the median interpreter and translator hourly wage as $24.00 an hour, or $49,930 a year. But that number includes all workers, entry-level, mid-level and experienced.

In July 2019, Payscale.com released data showing that the median hourly rate for an interpreter with less than one year of experience was $15.66. Entry-level interpreters who had one to four years of experience earned a higher rate of $17.72 an hour. Annual salaries for the majority of these professionals of all experience levels ranged from $27,000 - $76,000.

Salary by Employer

Interpreters are often either freelance or government employees. Regardless of employer, they typically travel to remote sites to interpret for clients. Interpreters are needed anywhere two people need to communicate: doctors' offices, courtrooms, hospitals, tourist destinations or corporate meetings.

The BLS reported in May 2018 that many interpreters and translators worked for professional, scientific and technical services, as well as elementary and secondary schools. Average annual salaries for these industries were $60,330 and $45,100, respectively. Hospital translator salaries were $51,680 on average, while those working for junior colleges made an average of $68,190. The federal executive branch paid the highest average wage of $82,950.

Salary by Location

California, Texas, Florida, New York and Arizona had the highest interpreter and translator employment levels in the country in May 2018, according to the BLS. Salaries in these states ranged from $46,100-$68,940. States that paid these workers the best average wages included Virginia ($70,770), Maryland ($70,530), District of Columbia ($93,730), New Jersey ($74,750) and Colorado ($70,050). The top-paying metropolitan area was the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV metropolitan division, which had a mean wage of $79,240.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, interpreter and translator employment growth is expected to be much faster than the average from 2016-2026. The projected growth rate is 18%, which results in an increase of 12,100 jobs over the period. You'll have better job prospects with a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as professional certification. The BLS expects the most growth in urban areas, and interpreters for the deaf are also predicted to have plentiful work opportunities - due to a limited number of professionals with the required skills.