What is the job market for interpreters? Is there going to be enough work in my area to earn a living?
Because the demand for skilled interpreters far exceeds the number of qualified professionals, nationally certified interpreters are able to find work all over the United States. Credentialed interpreters are constantly in demand in educational settings from pre-school through graduate school. These interpreters are part-time or full-time employees of their school district or university, and are often employed with benefits. Qualified interpreters are also in demand in medical, legal, mental health, theatrical, governmental, and religious settings, among others. Interpreters may be on staff in these settings, they may work through an interpreter referral agency, or they may be privately contracted.
How would I find work?
Many interpreters find part- and full-time employment in colleges and universities, hospitals and clinics, government agencies and corporations. But many more interpreters are independent contractors who book work directly with businesses or agencies, or through public or private referral agencies. When anyone -- a local business, a hospital or private doctor, a police station, attorney, or court -- requires interpreting services, the request is placed with the local referral service and a call goes out to interpreters on the referral service roster. Some assignments are for just one appearance; others might be ongoing for a week or once a week for several months.
Where would I work?
You name it. In a dental office, on the phone, on a construction site, in a museum, at a birth, in an auto shop, in a classroom, at a resort, at a conference, in a SCUBA class.... Anywhere where people need to communicate.
Is travel involved?
Oftentimes, yes. Interpreters can have one job or several jobs during the course of a day or week, and of course, they have to get there. Some interpreters enjoy conference work for the opportunity to travel to other cities or other countries. And some prefer to work for a video relay service where they can be in one place and serve people the world over.
How much money will I make?
The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages for 2014 reports a range of about $10 to $50 per hour for interpreters and translators. But, how much money you make depends on several factors: where you live, your level of education, your experience, your interpreting credentials, and in which settings you choose to work. To find out more about interpreting in your area contact your local Interpreting Education Program or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf affiliate chapter.
How would I be paid? By whom?
Depending upon how referral works in your particular area, you may be paid directly by the person or business who made the request, or by the referral agency that hires you.
How would I handle taxes?
Interpreters pay taxes according to whether they are employed on staff or self-employed (or both). We'll leave these details to you and a tax consultant!
What job satisfaction would I find in the work?
One of the most satisfying aspects of interpreting is that you can pretty much make it whatever you want. If you like flexibility, like to be your own boss, like making a difference in the world, you may be able to find great satisfaction in the interpreting field.