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Salary, Wages, Pay: Interpreters and Translators




Salaried interpreters and translators had median hourly earnings of $15.67 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.97 and $20.33. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.37, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $25.99. Limited information suggests that highly skilled interpreters and translatorsófor example, high-level conference interpretersóworking full time can earn more than $100,000 annually.

Earnings depend on language, subject matter, skill, experience, education, certification, and type of employer, and salaries of interpreters and translators can vary widely. Interpreters and translators with language skills for which there is a greater demand, or for which there are relatively few people with the skills, often have higher earnings. According to a 2001 salary survey by the American Translators Association, Chinese and Japanese interpreters and translators earned the highest median hourly ratesóranging from $45 to $50 an hour. Interpreters and translators with specialized expertise, such as those working in software localization, also generally command higher rates. Individuals classified as language specialists for the Federal Government earned an average of $64,234 annually in 2003.

For those who are not salaried, earnings may fluctuate, depending on the availability of work. Furthermore, freelancers do not have any employer-paid benefits. Freelance interpreters usually earn an hourly rate, whereas translators who freelance typically earn a rate per word or per hour.