National Avg. Salary

$48,360 More Salary Data →

Job Growth Rate

28.7% More Growth Data →

Recommended Degree

Programs & Degrees →

Attributes

  • Growing Industry
  • Skill-Based Work

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Translators are experts in more than one language and use their skills to translate written texts from one language into another. They may work to translate literary texts, medical documents, or legal documents. They make written texts accessible to individuals who cannot read the original language.

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Job Description

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in translator roles:

  • Translate written texts from one language into another
  • Work to retain the style, formatting, and intention of texts during translation
  • Brainstorm ways to translate words and phrases without exact-match components
  • Utilize computer-assisted translation (CAT) software to assist with translations

A Day in the Life

When working with foreign languages, there are two main specialties: interpreters and translators. Interpreters specialize in translating spoken language, often as the language is being spoken. Translators, on the other hand, specialize in translating written words from one language to another. As such, they must be fluent in at least two languages. Often, they work to translate the words from a second language into that of their native language, such as from Arabic to English, or English to Spanish.

Translators can work in any setting where texts need to be translated, but they primarily work to translate literary, medical, and legal texts. Literary translators work to translate books, poems, and other written works into languages they weren’t originally written in. Medical translators translate medical information into other languages to make the information accessible to speakers of different languages. Legal translators work to translate legal documents into other languages for non-native speakers.

Translating a text is rarely—if ever—a word-for-word process. Most languages are formatted very differently, and many languages use words that do not have exact-match translations. For this reason, the translator must take great care to retain the original structure, tone, and meaning of the texts they translate. Many utilize computer-aided translation (CAT) software to help with this process. CAT software offers suggestions of pre-existing translations of words and phrases to expedite the process.

Typical Work Schedule

Translators who work for employers generally work full-time during normal business hours. Those who are self-employed and perform translations on a freelance basis have the flexibility to choose their own schedules, and often work long hours for periods of time followed by long breaks from work.

Projected Job Growth

Demand for translators is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade for two major reasons. First, an increasingly large population of non-native English speakers in the U.S. is expected to increase demand for translation of legal and medical documents. Second, as the internet creates a growing audience and customer base for modern businesses, demand for website and content translations is expected to grow.

Translator Specializations

  • Literary translators translate literary texts—novels, poems, memoirs, etc.—into languages different from the original composure.
  • Medical translators translate medical records, prescription information, and doctor’s instructions into languages that are accessible to non-English-speaking patients.
  • Legal translators translate legal documents and court records into different languages so that they can be understood by non-English-speaking clients.

Typical Employers

Most translators work for companies that specialize in providing translation services, though some may work directly for hospitals, lawyers, or other companies that conduct a lot of business with non-native English speakers or speakers of other languages. Many are also self-employed and perform translations on a freelance basis for individual clients.

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Translator 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 Annual Salary

Low Range

$32,470

Average

$48,360

High Range

$78,520

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$16/hr

Average

$23/hr

High Range

$38/hr

How do Translator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Translator'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

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How To Become

There are no specific educational requirements for becoming a translator. The ability to read and write in two or more languages fluently is the most important requirement. There are a number of ways one might become fluent in a second language. Some translators were raised in a dual-language household and learn multiple languages at home and school. Some study and major in a second language in college. Some are self-taught or learn through immersion by spending time learning languages abroad.

While being able to read and write two or more languages is the primary requirement, training in translation is also helpful in this role. In a translation program, you’ll learn how to use computer-aided translation programs, and you’ll also get feedback from professional translators on how well you’ve retained tone and content when translating. You may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in translation, or you may double-major in a foreign language and translation to pursue this path.

Additionally, familiarity with the subject matter of the works you aspire to translate is also beneficial and required in some cases. For example, many legal translators are trained lawyers, and many medical translators are trained doctors or nurses. This allows translators to understand the texts they’re translating enough to ensure accuracy in translation for critical concepts. Additional education or professional experience in related roles will ensure you’re able to translate texts accurately.


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Quick Summary

  • Optional

    The most important requirement for translators is the ability to read and write fluently in two or more languages, so some translators are able to find work in the field with only a high school diploma.

  • Recommended Min. Degree

Programs and Degrees

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

Highest Education Among Translator

  • 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

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Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

61,000

2024 Est. Jobs

78,500

Job Growth Rate

28.7%

Est. New Jobs

17,500

How does Translator 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

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What Companies Employ The Most Translators

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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