How to Become a

Court Interpreter

The complete career guide to be a Court Interpreter: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $48,360
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 28.7%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Court interpreters convert one spoken language to another in a legal setting, most often inside a courtroom. They do not work with written text, this is the purview of a translator. Interpreting is done in one of two ways, either simultaneously, wherein someone is speaking and an immediate interpretation is provided, or in intervals, after a person has completed their sentence.

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What is a Court Interpreter?

Court interpreters must be focused, detail oriented individuals with outstanding communication skills and a solid understanding of legal terms and practice. They have to be excellent listeners and quick on their feet in order to keep pace with the speaker, and as the profession is inextricably intertwined with a diverse group of people, they generally must be tactful, possess solid interpersonal skills and have a superb memory. Compensation is on par with median incomes in the United States. Court interpreters tend to work full time during regular business hours, although nights and weekends are sometimes required.

In the course of their jobs, court interpreters typically fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • Correctly and efficiently impart the meaning, tone and style of the original language
  • Relay spoken language (or sign language) with accuracy, speed and clarity
  • Take sentences, words or legal terms and jargon in one language and convert into the equivalent in the target language
  • Take notes and create a database of terms to be used in future situations

Day In the Life

Court interpreters assist with communication by converting language, either verbally or in the case of sign language, visually, from one language into another. It is not uncommon for people to function as both translators (the written word) and interpreters at the same time, but within the purview of interpretation, it is strictly a ‘spoken’ communication at work. A court interpreter functions to provide ease of communication between two or more parties in court setting as if it were in the original language of each party.

The primary function of court interpreters is to assist people appearing in court who have difficulty or are unwilling to communicate in English. Of course, court interpreters work in a host of legal settings inside and outside of the courtroom, such as in law firms, during meetings with attorneys and clients, attorney-client meetings, preliminary hearings, depositions and arraignments. They must have an expert understanding of legal terminology, in both languages, and also be completely familiar with every facet of the judicial system in the United States. It is sometimes supremely challenging work due to the emotions and graphic presentations in certain cases. The best court interpreters remain professional and detached in the face of such heightened emotion, never altering the meaning or tone of the words being spoken, yet still sensitive and aware of the potential pain and discomfort such expression might cause.  In addition to interpreting what is spoken aloud, or signed, court interpreters occasionally must translate written documents and read them aloud in court.

There are two common methods of interpreting – consecutive and simultaneous. The former involves interpreting the words of the speak only after they have spoken or signed a series of words or sentences. As one might imagine, notes are critical in this particular method. For the latter, the interpreter operates at the same he person is speaking or signing. This necessitates exceptional focus on the part of the interpreter, and as the difficulty level is quite high, teams will often operate, taking turns with breaks every hour or two. Familiarity with the subject matter is common under this particular method.


Court interpreters are in high demand and as such there are a myriad of potential employers. A typical destination might include working in a law firm, a federal courtroom or a community center. Some court interpreters are self-employed, which can result in lengthy periods of little to no work followed by periods of intense, lengthy work. It has the added incentive of allowing the interpreter to choose which assignments they will take, as well as providing opportunities to travel for work.


The number of full and part-time staff positions are steadily growing as more courts establish and expand interpreter services departments.

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How To Become a Court Interpreter

There are no definitive academic requirements for court interpreter positions, aside from being fluent in English and at least one other language, however employers are strongly inclined towards those with a bachelors degree as the minimum level of education. Additionally, a specialized certificate or comparable training is often required. These can be acquired through private organizations and government agencies alike and will provide assurances to employers regarding an interpreters abilities.

Majoring in a foreign language is not an absolute requirement, though it is the most common path taken. However, focusing on another area of study can provide expertise in adjacent areas that provide tremendous value to future employers. For instance, political science or pre-law majors are in high demand for positions as court interpreters. Studying abroad can also be a very helpful as interpreting is comprised not solely from bi-lingual knowledge, but also from familiarization with culture, slang, colloquialisms and specialized knowledge.

Court Interpreter Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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How do Court Interpreter salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Court Interpreter's can make an average annual salary of $48,360, or $23 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $32,470 or $16 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #408 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Court Interpreter. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Court Interpreters

  • 4.5%   Doctorate
  • 14.4%   Masters
  • 30.9%   Bachelors
  • 13.6%   Associates
  • 22.4%   College
  • 11.3%   High School
  • 2.9%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Court Interpreter job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 17,500 jobs for a total of 78,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 28.7% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #17 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Court Interpreters

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 10,400 1,100 1%
Elementary and secondary schools; local 9,800 600 1%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 3,800 1,100 1%

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