Interpreter Job Information

Interpreter jobs cover a very wide range of roles and situations. Most people work for community or government agencies, providing a service which allows people who don’t speak the local language to communicate fluently. Some of the work of an interpreter includes essential services, dealing with refugees, disadvantaged people and people in distress.

  • Note: Interpreters and Translators are not the same thing. They do different work. An interpreter is engaged in verbal or sign language translation, a translator works with written materials.

The Work Environment

Interpreters work either as salaried staff for agencies, or as freelance contractors, on set pay rates.

Areas of employment include:

  • Government agencies
  • Law enforcement
  • Judiciary and legal services
  • Medical services
  • Tourism and hospitality
  • Business interpretation
  • Relief agencies
  • Social services
  • Community services

Most interpreters work directly for these organizations, but about 25% of US interpreters work freelance. The usual form of work is an interview or formal hearing situation, based on the role of the agency. In community agencies, an interpreter will usually be the interface between a counselor and the people requiring assistance or services from the agency. This can be difficult work, and there are some technical issues which can affect the role of the interpreter.

  • Interpreters must be fully conversant with the core tasks of their employers. In the case of a social service, for example, they must understand and appreciate the issues involved in the service, and be able to explain these issues to the parties concerned.
  • Dialects and related issues: Some dialect speakers are very much in demand, because of the large number of people who don’t speak the official languages of their nations.
  • Cultural issues: Interpreters require a full knowledge of social and cultural issues, to be able to explain to the agency workers the issues involved in some situations. Cultural sensitivity is another fundamental requirement in the role of an interpreter, due to the nature of some cultural and religious issues.
  • Sign language interpreters: This job requires extreme fluency in sign language, because the person for whom the interpreter is translating may need to communicate quickly and effectively, particularly in a crisis situation.

A typical day in the work of an interpreter may include:

  • Multiple interviews on different subjects
  • Travel to interview locations, sometimes remote
  • Considerable use of time explaining issues and situations to clients, both the agencies and the people who require the services of an interpreter


Extremely variable, depending on hours, qualifications, experience, and employer. The salary bandwidth is $22,170 to $79,865, with the median range salary being $38850.


Can be long, including travel and in many cases extended interviews, court cases, or other extended forms of service.

The Career Environment

The career progression for interpreters is based on job mobility and expertise and where you work as an interpreter makes a big difference. In Europe, language skills are formally accredited, providing a career qualification base. In the US and elsewhere, proficiency and specializations are the more dominant career motifs.

Demand for interpreters, online, in business and in the sciences and medicine, is also driving an upswing in career prospects. US employment data indicates a demand for an increase in interpreters of 22%, or more than double the national employment growth average.