How to Become a

Spanish Interpreter

The complete career guide to be a Spanish 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

Spanish interpreters convert spoken English into Spanish and vice versa. 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. Many Spanish interpreters work in specialized roles, such as in healthcare or legal settings.

Recommended Schools

What is a Spanish Interpreter?

Spanish interpreters must be focused, detail oriented individuals with outstanding communication skills. They have to 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, quick on their feet and possess solid interpersonal skills. Compensation is on par with median incomes in the United States, however job satisfaction is generally high in this career due to the opportunities available to move around within the field, pleasant working conditions and the close nature working with people. Most interpreters work full time during regular business hours.

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

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

Day In The Life

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 ‘spoke’ communication at work. An interpreter functions to provide ease of communication between two or more parties as if it were in the original language.

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 you 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 exception 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.


Spanish interpretation services are in high demand across nearly every occupational field. Although it is not necessary to focus on any one particular industry, many Spanish interpreters choose to do so in order to maximize their value, pursue particular interests and heighten their level of expertise.

Local community interpreters provide services to families at government bureaus such as the social security office or DMV, immigration court, school conferences and apartment rentals or home purchases.

Conference interpreters provide services to attendees who do not speak the dominant language. This is often in the service of diplomacy or global business. For some high level organizations, such as the United Nations, it is required for the interpreter to be able to convert from a minimum of two languages into one native tongue and is typically simultaneous interpreting.

Health care interpreters work in medical settings and assist doctors, nurses,  medical staff and patients. Interpreters in this setting must have a thorough command of medical terminology and must also be extremely sensitive to a patient’s situation, such as during child birth or treatment of a terminal illness. Interpretation is often done over the phone or through video relay.

Tourists, government workers or business travelers all have great need of an escort interpreter as well as foreign visitors from Spanish speaking nations coming to the United States.  These liaisons ensure that the travelers can communicate effectively during their trip. As might be expected, frequent travel is a hallmark for escort interpreters.

Legal interpreters typically work in the courts, providing assistance to those in need at trials, depositions, arraignments and hearings. In the same vein as medical interpreters, a comprehensive understanding of legal terminology is required. Legal interpreters are required to occasionally read court documents aloud in a language other than what was written, a job known as sight translation.

Sign language interpreters enable communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. Fluency in American Sign Language (ASL), a combination of body language, finger spelling and signing, is required. which combines signing, finger spelling, and specific body language.


Spanish interpreters are currently in high demand and the profession is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years, at a rate much higher than the national average for all occupations. A more diverse population is partly to account, as is the ever increasing nature of a global business world, but technological innovations will also present a mysriad of new opportunities, such as with the use of video relay services, which will allow for online video calls with the use of a sign language interpreter.


Spanish translators are in high demand and as such there are a myriad of potential employers. A typical destination might include working in a courtroom, corporation, hospital or school.

Some 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 them to choose which assignment they will take, as well as providing opportunities to travel for work. Around twenty percent of Spanish interpreters identify as self-employed.


Recommended Schools

How To Become a Spanish Interpreter

There are no definitive academic requirements for Spanish interpreter positions, aside from being fluent in Spanish 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. Certain specific certification processes, such as for a legal interpreter, will have a state-by-state certification process.  Typically though, applicants are required to successfully navigate an oral and written examination.

Majoring in Spanish 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. Chemistry or physics majors would be in high demand for positions as medical interpreters for instance.

Studying abroad can 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.

Advancement within a career can be facilitated with a graduate degree to provide value through specialization, such as conference interpreters or those who work in the medical field.

Spanish 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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High Range


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

Highest Education Among Spanish 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 Spanish 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 Spanish 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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