If you are fluent in more than one language, your job prospects as a translator — converting written text from one language to another — are growing at a rapid clip in the U.S. market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of translator jobs in 2018 topped out at more than 76,000, with job growth between now and 2028 projected at 19%, which is much faster than average (7-13%). Annual wages are in the mid-five-figure range, and translators work in a variety of different environments. How much money do translators make? That depends on a few factors.
The BLS reports that the average translator has a Bachelor’s Degree, though someone without a Bachelor’s Degree who has native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language may be able to do the job. As of May 2018, the median annual wage for translators was $49,390 based on these qualifications. Certification may increase how much translators make, in addition to inviting more job prospects, according to BLS. Translators who are certified through the American Translators Association may make as much as $54,000 in annual wages, according to PayScale. Interpreters, who convert oral conversations rather than written text, have different qualifications and earnings.
There is an opportunity for employment as a translator throughout the United States. A BLS map from May 2017 denotes California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Arizona as states with the most job opportunities. Translators in these states — where there are large populations of non-English-speaking people — can earn between $41-$65 thousand dollars per year. Meanwhile, translators in Washington, D.C. can earn as much as $92,000 annually, and translators in New Jersey may make as much as $73,000 per year. As demand increases for translators throughout the country, as projected by the BLS, pay rates may also increase.
Many translators work remotely, as freelance contractors versus in-house employees. The Translation Company cites financial stability as a primary motivator for working in-house as a translator, whereas mobility and freedom to set one’s own hours lead the pros list for freelance translators. The BLS does not differentiate between freelance or in-house translators in terms of how much they make, though the site does note that freelance translators frequently work during normal business hours so as to communicate with their clients in real-time.
Though technology may change how translators work, the need for translators is growing all the time. Translators who speak Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, or Arabic in addition to English at native-level fluency can make as much as $92,000 per year, though the average annual wage is closer to $50-55,000. Job opportunities are projected to increase nearly 20% before 2028, with no signs of slowing down or stopping. If languages and translation are in your skillset, it may be worth considering a career as a translator.
Samantha Puc is a culture critic and essayist whose work focuses on LGBTQ and fat representation in pop culture. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag.