What Does An Interpreter Do?

An interpreter is responsible for facilitating communication between different language speakers by translating information from one language to another for easy comprehension. Some interpreters work on spoken languages while the rest specialize in sign languages. Interpreters must have strong knowledge and expertise in their chosen language to translate communication accurately and efficiently. They should also provide written texts as needed, especially in the transcription and publishing industry. Interpreters must be detail-oriented all the time to communicate the message effectively without altering its core content.

Here are examples of responsibilities from real interpreter resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Lead an international team of HUMINT collectors for the NATO mission in Bosnia where overt and covert collection protocols are observed.
  • Work with various computer systems and the internet.
  • Adhere to company policies and procedures, and HIPAA privacy practices.
  • Work with students and staff/faculty to interpret sign-to-voice and voice-to sign.
  • Keep update information on students, families and translate school documents into Hmong.
  • Serve as a liaison between providers and LEP patients according to their cultural backgrounds.
  • Serve as a media spokesperson for the ESL department on Spanish radio and television.
  • Follow lesson plans left by the regular teacher, teaching all subject matters grades k-12.
  • Interpret ASL to English, and English to ASL for high profile & complex legal matters.
  • Work with limit English speaking (LEP) callers, accurately interpreting and conveying information back to clients.
Interpreter Traits
Business skills describe how individuals are able to understand consumer behaviors and use it in a way that leads to success.
Cultural sensitivity involves being aware of cultural differences among people without assigning value.
Dexterity describes being skilled in using your hands when it comes to physical activity.

Interpreter Overview

When it comes to understanding what an interpreter does, you may be wondering, "should I become an interpreter?" The data included in this section may help you decide. Compared to other jobs, interpreters have a growth rate described as "much faster than average" at 19% between the years 2018 - 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the number of interpreter opportunities that are predicted to open up by 2028 is 14,600.

Interpreters average about $19.24 an hour, which makes the interpreter annual salary $40,024. Additionally, interpreters are known to earn anywhere from $28,000 to $56,000 a year. This means that the top-earning interpreters make $28,000 more than the lowest earning ones.

As is the case with most jobs, it takes work to become an interpreter. Sometimes people change their minds about their career after working in the profession. That's why we looked into some other professions that might help you find your next opportunity. These professions include a cryptologic linguist, arabic linguist, technical translator, and language translator.

Interpreter Jobs You Might Like

Interpreter Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 18% of Interpreters are proficient in Customer Service, Communication, and ASL. They’re also known for soft skills such as Business skills, Cultural sensitivity, and Dexterity.

We break down the percentage of Interpreters that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Customer Service, 18%

    Assist with English-to-Spanish over-the-phone interpretation to customer service departments to private industries as well as government agencies.

  • Communication, 12%

    Use my bilingual and interpretation skills, while maintaining excellent standards of professionalism to facilitate communication between businesses and their clients.

  • ASL, 11%

    Freelance ASL interpreter providing interpreting services for Deaf and hearing professionals in corporate and government environments.

  • Medical Records, 9%

    Analyzed information form medical records, diagnostic evaluations to asses client's abilities and eligibility.

  • Interpretation Services, 6%

    Provided spoken and written interpretation services for non-English speaking Hispanics in legal, medical, educational, and employment environments.

  • LEP, 5%

    Interpret for health care providers and Spanish-speaking Limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.

"customer service," "communication," and "asl" aren't the only skills we found interpreters list on their resumes. In fact, there's a whole list of interpreter responsibilities that we found, including:

  • The most important skills for an interpreter to have in this position are business skills. In this excerpt that we gathered from a interpreter resume, you'll understand why: "self-employed interpreters and translators need general business skills to manage their finances and careers successfully" According to resumes we found, business skills can be used by a interpreter in order to "translated various kinds of official documents such as product specification and business protocol from chinese to english and vice versa"
  • Another trait important for fulfilling interpreter duties is cultural sensitivity. According to a interpreter resume, "interpreters and translators must be sensitive to cultural differences and expectations among the people whom they are helping to communicate." Here's an example of how interpreters are able to utilize cultural sensitivity: "provide culturally-sensitive somali, may-may, swahili, oromo and english interpretation"
  • Interpreters are also known for dexterity, which can be critical when it comes to performing their duties. An example of why this skill is important is shown by this snippet that we found in a interpreter resume: "sign language interpreters must be able to make quick and coordinated hand, finger, and arm movements when interpreting." We also found this resume example that details how this skill is put to the test: "accompany professional home visitor to interpret for spanish speaking patients, enrolled in the hands program, to their homes. "
  • A thorough review of lots of resumes revealed to us that "interpersonal skills" is important to completing interpreter responsibilities. This resume example shows just one way interpreters use this skill: "interpreters and translators, particularly those who are self-employed, must be able to get along with those who hire or use their services in order to retain clients and attract new business." Here's an example of how this skill is used from a resume that represents typical interpreter tasks: "translate sentences spoken in english into tigrigna and vice versa, and have been recognized for superb communication and interpersonal skills. "
  • Another common skill for an interpreter to be able to utilize is "listening skills." Interpreters must listen carefully when interpreting for audiences to ensure that they hear and interpret correctly. An interpreter demonstrated the need for this skill by putting this on their resume: "listen carefully to exchanges between provider and patient to provide accurate interpretation. "
  • Lastly, this career requires you to be skillful in "reading skills." According to interpreter resumes, "translators must be able to read in all of the languages in which they are working." This resume example highlights how interpreter responsibilities rely on this skill: "facilitate communication using a variety of modes for a parent participating with daughter in reading program. "
  • See the full list of interpreter skills.

    We've found that 55.9% of interpreters have earned a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, 12.4% earned their master's degrees before becoming an interpreter. While it's true that most interpreters have a college degree, it's generally possible to become one with only a high school degree. In fact, one out of every seven interpreters did not spend the extra money to attend college.

    The interpreters who went onto college to earn a more in-depth education generally studied business and english, while a small population of interpreters studied linguistics and psychology.

    Once you've obtained the level of education you're comfortable with, you might start applying to companies to become an interpreter. We've found that most interpreter resumes include experience from TransPerfect, Sorenson, and CyraCom. Of recent, TransPerfect had 71 positions open for interpreters. Meanwhile, there are 58 job openings at Sorenson and 34 at CyraCom.

    But if you're interested in companies where you might earn a high salary, interpreters tend to earn the biggest salaries at Dean Health Plan, Pacific Architects and Engineers, and MISTRAS Group. Take Dean Health Plan for example. The median interpreter salary is $54,297. At Pacific Architects and Engineers, interpreters earn an average of $53,554, while the average at MISTRAS Group is $52,714. You should take into consideration how difficult it might be to secure a job with one of these companies.

    View more details on interpreter salaries across the United States.

    Some other companies you might be interested in as a interpreter include United States Army, Language Line Holdings Inc, and CyraCom. These three companies were found to hire the most interpreters from the top 100 U.S. educational institutions.

    For the most part, interpreters make their living in the non profits and health care industries. Interpreters tend to make the most in the finance industry with an average salary of $55,408. The interpreter annual salary in the technology and telecommunication industries generally make $52,909 and $49,616 respectively. Additionally, interpreters who work in the finance industry make 26.2% more than interpreters in the health care Industry.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious interpreters are:

      What Cryptologic Linguists Do

      Cryptologic linguists are lingual professionals who are responsible for using signals equipment to identify and analyze foreign communications. These linguists must assist intelligence community analysts in translating open source and sensitive materials as well as producing comprehensive reports about the daily activities of their enemies. They are required to supervise a team of other linguistic professionals to provide transcriptions and analysis from foreign communications. Cryptologic linguists must also identify the languages spoken at target geographic areas of interest.

      In this section, we compare the average interpreter annual salary with that of a cryptologic linguist. Typically, cryptologic linguists earn a $20,675 higher salary than interpreters earn annually.

      While their salaries may differ, one common ground between interpreters and cryptologic linguists are a few of the skills required in each craft. In both careers, employees bring forth skills like target language, powerpoint, and federal agencies.

      As far as similarities go, this is where it ends because an interpreter responsibility requires skills such as "customer service," "communication," "asl," and "medical records." Whereas a cryptologic linguist is skilled in "procedures," "geographic area," "appropriate authority," and "intelligence analysis." So if you're looking for what truly separates the two careers, you've found it.

      On average, cryptologic linguists reach lower levels of education than interpreters. Cryptologic linguists are 11.4% less likely to earn a Master's Degree and 2.1% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of an Arabic Linguist?

      Arabic linguists are experts who interpret and translate research or business documents that are written in the Arab language or its dialects. These linguists are required to advise peers and superiors about the Arabic language and culture while providing inputs of written reports developed from target materials utilizing the specific Arabic language. They must conduct simultaneous interpretations of conversations during diplomatic meetings and conferences. Arabic linguists must also create and manage Arabic language training for the newly hired linguists.

      The next role we're going to look at is the arabic linguist profession. Typically, this position earns a higher pay. In fact, they earn a $72,803 higher salary than interpreters per year.

      While the salary may be different for these job positions, there is one similarity and that's a few of the skills needed to perform certain duties. We used info from lots of resumes to find that both interpreters and arabic linguists are known to have skills such as "interpretation services," "translation services," and "target language. "

      But both careers also use different skills, according to real interpreter resumes. While interpreter responsibilities can utilize skills like "customer service," "communication," "asl," and "medical records," some arabic linguists use skills like "clearance," "internet," "cultural knowledge," and "hard copy."

      On the topic of education, arabic linguists earn similar levels of education than interpreters. In general, they're 3.1% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 2.1% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      How a Technical Translator Compares

      Technical Translation is the act of translating materials in a specific technical or scientific subject domain. A Technical Translator understands the nitty-gritty of the subject matter and knows the specialized terms in that field in both the source and secondary languages. This individual works to produce translations and interpretations of either written or oral communications of one language to another for a specific purpose or industry. As a Technical Translator, your duties may include interpreting conferences and emails in an organization.

      The technical translator profession generally makes a higher amount of money when compared to the average salary of interpreters. The difference in salaries is technical translators making $8,141 higher than interpreters.

      Using interpreters and technical translators resumes, we found that both professions have similar skills such as "interpretation services," "translation services," and "health care," but the other skills required are very different.

      Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from interpreter resumes include skills like "customer service," "communication," "asl," and "medical records," whereas a technical translator might be skilled in "technical documents," "technical translation," "technical manuals," and "qa. "

      Interestingly enough, technical translators earn the most pay in the automotive industry, where they command an average salary of $68,071. As mentioned previously, interpreters highest annual salary comes from the finance industry with an average salary of $55,408.

      Technical translators typically study at higher levels compared with interpreters. For example, they're 12.7% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree, and 0.6% more likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of a Language Translator

      Language translators are linguistic professionals who are responsible for converting information from one language to another to help people read the translation based on the original source. These translators must use a computer to translate the original language into their native language. They can work for software development companies as under contract independent foreign language translators. They must utilize target language to translate and transcribe critical information and performing immediate data analysis. Language translators must also provide interpretations for meetings, conferences, and administrative hearings for any sponsored functions.

      The fourth career we look at typically earns higher pay than interpreters. On average, language translators earn a difference of $3,711 higher per year.

      While their salaries may vary, interpreters and language translators both use similar skills to perform their jobs. Resumes from both professions include skills like "communication," "medical records," and "interpretation services. "

      While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "customer service," "asl," "lep," and "emergency" are skills that have shown up on interpreters resumes. Additionally, language translator uses skills like foreign language, proofread, audio files, and serbian on their resumes.

      In general, language translators reach higher levels of education when compared to interpreters resumes. Language translators are 6.9% more likely to earn their Master's Degree and 2.3% more likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.