An interpreter translates spoken passages of a foreign language into another specified language. The job is often designated by the language interpreted, such as Spanish or Japanese. In addition, many interpreters specialize according to subject matter. For example, medical interpreters have extensive knowledge of and experience in the health care field, while court or judiciary interpreters speak both a second language and the "language" of law. Interpreters for the deaf, also known as sign language interpreters, aid in the communication between people who are unable to hear and those who can.

In contrast to interpreters, translators focus on written materials, such as books, plays, technical or scientific papers, legal documents, laws, treaties, and decrees. A sight translator performs a combination of interpreting and translating by reading printed material in one language while reciting it aloud in another.

There are approximately 49,060 interpreters and translators employed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Next Section: History

Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) Conference Interpreters, Consecutive Interpreters, Court Interpreters, Escort Interpreters, Guide Interpreters, Interpreters for the Deaf, Judiciary Interpreters, Localization Translators, Medical Interpreters, Oral Interpreters, Sight Translators, Sign Language Interpreters, Simultaneous Interpreters, Translators, Trilingual Interpreters
Duties Translate a conversation or body of work into another language
Salary Range Below $25,000 to $100,000
Work Environment Primarily Indoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Opportunities exist in all regions, especially major urban centers, such as New York City, as well as overseas in cities such as Geneva and Tokyo
Minimum Education Level
  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Master's Degree
School Subjects
  • English
  • Foreign Language
  • Speech
Experience One to five years' experience
Personality Traits
  • Hands On
  • Problem-Solving
  • Talkative
  • Foreign Language
  • Interpersonal
  • Public Speaking
  • Writing
Certification or Licensing Recommended
Special Requirements None
Employment Prospects Excellent
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Much Faster than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Owner of Interpreter/Translator Business
  • Interpreter/Translator Supervisor
  • Chief Interpreter/Translator
  • Interpreter/Translator
  • Interpreter Services Associate

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.



Health Service Administrator

  • $0
  • 25
  • 50
  • 75
  • 100
  • 100+
Yearly Salary Range (US$ Thousands)