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Career profile Interpreter

Also known as Court Interpreter, Deaf Interpreter, Educational Interpreter, Interpreter, Medical Interpreter, Paraprofessional Interpreter, Sign Language Interpreter, Spanish Interpreter, Technical Translator, Translator


Also known as Court Interpreter, Deaf Interpreter, Educational Interpreter

Interests Profile
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$29,740 - $96,480 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Speaking
  • Active Listening
  • Reading Comprehension
Knowledge Areas
  • Foreign Language
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Follow ethical codes that protect the confidentiality of information.
  • Translate messages simultaneously or consecutively into specified languages, orally or by using hand signs, maintaining message content, context, and style as much as possible.
  • Listen to speakers' statements to determine meanings and to prepare translations, using electronic listening systems as necessary.
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What does an Interpreter do?

Interpreters interpret oral or sign language, or translate written text from one language into another.

What kind of tasks does an Interpreter perform regularly?

Interpreters are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Follow ethical codes that protect the confidentiality of information.
  • Translate messages simultaneously or consecutively into specified languages, orally or by using hand signs, maintaining message content, context, and style as much as possible.
  • Listen to speakers' statements to determine meanings and to prepare translations, using electronic listening systems as necessary.
  • Compile terminology and information to be used in translations, including technical terms such as those for legal or medical material.
  • Refer to reference materials, such as dictionaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, and computerized terminology banks, as needed to ensure translation accuracy.
  • Check translations of technical terms and terminology to ensure that they are accurate and remain consistent throughout translation revisions.
  • Identify and resolve conflicts related to the meanings of words, concepts, practices, or behaviors.
  • Compile information on content and context of information to be translated and on intended audience.

The above responsibilities are specific to Interpreters. More generally, Interpreters are involved in several broader types of activities:

Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What is an Interpreter salary?

The median salary for an Interpreter is $52,330, and the average salary is $58,140. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Interpreter salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Interpreters earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Interpreters earn less than $29,740 per year, 25% earn less than $38,410, 75% earn less than $72,630, and 90% earn less than $96,480.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Interpreters is expected to change by 23.7%, and there should be roughly 10,400 open positions for Interpreters every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$29,740 - $96,480
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Interpreters?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Interpreter are usually higher in their Artistic and Social interests.

Interpreters typically have very strong Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Also, Interpreters typically have strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Interpreter tend to value Relationships, Working Conditions, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Interpreters strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Interpreters moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Interpreters moderately value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Interpreters must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, attention to detail, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Interpreters, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Interpreters need?

Many Interpreters will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Interpreters usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Interpreters

  • 2.3% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 9.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 19.5% completed some college coursework
  • 13.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 34.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 16.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 4.1% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Interpreters

Interpreters may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as foreign language, customer and personal service, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Interpreters might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Foreign Language
Knowledge of the structure and content of a foreign (non-English) language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition and grammar, and pronunciation.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.

Important Abilities needed by Interpreters

Interpreters must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Interpreters need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Interpreters, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
Speech Recognition
The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

Critical Skills needed by Interpreters

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Interpreters frequently use skills like speaking, active listening, and reading comprehension to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Interpreters, ranked by their relative importance.

Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.