Translator & Interpreter Salaries
Yearly earnings of translators and interpreters vary greatly depending on a variety of factors such as languages translated, whether the translator or interpreter works for a company or is a freelancer, the subject matter being translated or interpreted, level of education, experience, and efficiency.
Across the board, it can safely be assumed that interpreters and translators who know languages for which there is a great demand (like Spanish, French or Arabic), or languages that relatively few people can translate, often have higher earnings. Translators and Interpreters employed full-time by the government tend to make more than those employed by other organizations or companies. On the whole, it is more beneficial to work as a freelance translator than working solely for one company or corporation.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, interpreters and translators had median yearly wages of $38,850, and the middle 50 percent earned between $28,940 and $52,240. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,190. Those working as classified as language specialists for the Federal Government earned an average of $79,865 annually in March 2009.
Unless a freelance translator or interpreter is working for one or several companies and can anticipate their yearly wages, earnings typically fluctuate from year to year. Freelance interpreters usually charge an hourly rate, whereas translators who freelance typically earn a rate per word (one rate for translation and one rate for revisions/editing) or per hour.
When setting prices, it is important for both the translator and the client to be clear on terminology used to describe services and payment expectations. Here are some commonly accepted definitions in the field:
Translation: Conversion of one written document into the target language.
Editing: Revision of the translation in the target language. Includes the correction of mistranslations, omissions/additions, and language errors. During this process, the target text (being edited) is compared to the source text to ensure accuracy.
Proofreading: Revision of the translation to correct typos and similar errors in the target language. Done without reference to the source language.
Word Counts: Word counts are normally calculated from the source text (number of words in the source text). If the source text is provided as a hard copy or in a non-editable format, the word count is then calculated for the target text.
Rush Rate: Translators set their own rush rate, but it is typically applied to all projects that involve more than 3,000 words of translation, or 8,000 words of editing or 12,000 words of proofreading per person, per day.
Weekend Rate: applied on any project that needs to be worked on over the weekend or holiday (to be submitted at the start of the business day on Monday).
Fixed Project Rate: when the translator quotes a project fee instead of a per word rate.
Both agencies and freelance translators set their own fees and terms. The average rate per word is 10 to 20 cents, depending on the type of document to be translated, the language combination, the amount of work involved, the subject matter and the deadline. Rush translations typically cost between 15-25 cents per word. Average revision or editing rates are between 3-7 cents per word. In the case that translators do charge by the hour, a typical hourly rate is between $30-$50. The majority of translators charge by the hour for revision (the average rate is about 30 to 50 dollars per hour). Average hourly rates for interpreters range from $30-$80, depending on the type and location of the work.