How to Become a

Medical Interpreter

The complete career guide to be a Medical 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

Medical interpreters convert one spoken language to another in a health care setting, primarily medical centers or hospitals.

Recommended Schools

What is a Medical Interpreter?

Medical interpreters must be focused, detail oriented individuals with outstanding communication skills and a strong understanding of medical terms and practices. They have to be excellent listeners and be 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 an excellent memory. Compensation is on par with median incomes in the United States. Medical interpreters tend to work full time during regular business hours, although nights and weekends are not uncommon.

In the course of their jobs, medical 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 medical jargon in one language and convert into the equivalent in the target language
  • Take notes and create a database of medical terms to be used in future situations

Day In the Life

Medical interpreters provide language services to healthcare practitioners and patients with minimal and sometimes nonexistent English skills. The objective is to better facilitate communication between doctors and patients, nurses and family members and medical staff and the general public. A thorough knowledge of medical concepts and terms in both languages is absolutely imperative. Equally important is imparting the information with tact and empathy given the potential sensitivity of the information being shared. The best medical interpreters remain professional and detached in the face of heightened emotion, yet still sensitive and aware of the patients and families potential awkwardness, pain and discomfort.

Medical 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 medical interpreter functions to provide ease of communication between two or more parties in a medical setting as if it were in the original language of each party.

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.


Medical translators are in high demand and as such there are a myriad of potential employers. A typical destination might include working in a hospital, convalescent home, medical center or urgent care facility.

Some medical 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. Around twenty percent of medical translators identify as self-employed.


The majority of medical interpreters work in hospitals and medical centers. Although most of these workers freelance, the number of full- and part-time staff positions is steadily growing as more hospitals establish and expand interpreter services departments.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a Medical Interpreter

There are no definitive academic requirements for medical 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, chemistry, anatomy or physics majors are in high demand for positions as medical interpreters.

Studying abroad can also be very helpful as interpreting is comprised not solely from bi-lingual knowledge, but also from familiarization with culture, slang, colloquialisms and specialized knowledge.

Medical 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

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Medical Interpreter salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Medical 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 Medical Interpreter. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Medical 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 Medical 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 Medical 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%

Want To Be a Medical Interpreter? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →