How to Become a Language Translator

Language Translator Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $45,520
Avg. Pay / hour $21.88
Education 3-4 Years
Job Outlook 22%

If you enjoy learning new languages and communication then you might like to become a language translator.

A language translator speaks at least two languages fluently, often many more.

They act as a bridge between two parties, allowing fluent correspondence between the two by translating a conversation.

Language translators also work to transcribe books, documents, and films into other languages.

Employment prospects in this field are strong, with much growth predicted.

About one quarter of all translators are self-employed, and many work in this sector seasonally.

Some use the occupation to support them while they travel the world.

Education Requirements to Become a Language Translator

If you’re in high school and would like to become a language translator, you should consider taking subjects in foreign languages, and also attaining strong grades in English.

Completing a foreign exchange program is a good way to improve your language skills and experience another culture.

There is not specific requirement or degree needed to become a translator, except fluency in languages.

If you are interested in using your skills in a business setting then you will need to complete a college degree.

A good qualification is a four year bachelors program with a major in foreign languages.

It’s also essential to have training in interpreting and translation methods.

You will learn these at college if you enroll in language programs, but you can also learn them as a part of a shorter course, or even at a conference.

When you become a language translator, your job involves more than exchanging the words in one language for another.

You must also give thought to concepts and ideas, as well as be sensitive to different cultures.

Language Translator Job Description

Working as a language translator, your role could be divided into interpreting and translating.

Interpreting applies to verbal communication.

For instance, you could act as a an interpreter for two business people in a conference who spoke different languages.

Interpreters are often required at business meetings, hospitals, or within the court system.

Translating refers to written communication.

You might translate books, letters, documents or contracts into different languages.

Translating involves not just swapping words for words, but looking to the deeper meaning of language.

The translation you create must make sense to the reader, and convey more than simple sentences.

If you are looking for a job within business, when you become a language translator you can look forward to completing both interpreting and translating duties.

When you become a language translator you could find yourself working in many different environments.

Many work within business, other work in hospitals and schools.

Translators that work with written subject matter often choose to work from home.

Here are some of the duties of a language translators:

  • Translating a conversation between two parties
  • Translating literary works
  • Translating letters and documents
  • Providing a translation of speakers
  • Interpreting work in hospitals for doctors and patients

Language Translator Salary and Career Path

About one quarter of translators are self-employed, working as freelancers.

Another third are employed within education.

Many more are employed within business or hospitals.

Some work within the travel industry.

As you gain experience as a translator, you could expect to take on more responsibilities in assignments.

Some go on to work in managerial positions in business, others work as educators.

Some may start their own translation agencies.

The average wage for a language translator is $38,000 a year.

The highest 10% of earners made over $68,000 a year.

Many in this industry work part-time, and often many only work in the industry for a part of the year, and supplement their income with other work.

Many translators get paid a salary.

Freelancers will be paid on a contract basis per job, or other times they may be paid per word.

Some other careers similar to a language translator that may interest you include:

If you have a love for language, then you might like to become a language translator.

Although much work is on a contract basis, there is still a lot of opportunity in this growth area.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$97,510
New Hampshire$53,800
New Jersey$55,010
New Mexico$54,790
New York$80,640
North Carolina$60,050
North Dakota$39,400
Rhode Island$55,180
South Carolina$46,100
South Dakota$42,700
West Virginia$37,480
Puerto Rico$36,240

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $97,510.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $97,510
New York - $80,640
Virginia - $76,670
California - $73,490
Connecticut - $72,920
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Interpreters and Translators, OCC Code 27-3091, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a language translator do?

A language translator (or simply a ‘translator’) is someone who converts the written texts or words from one language to the other.

The main difference between a language translator and an interpreter is that the latter translates orally.

Typically, the main responsibilities of a language translator include speaking, reading, and writing fluently (and grammatically correct) in at least two languages; translating from one language to the other and maintaining the ideas, tone, style and so on; meeting certain deadlines, etc.

The goal of a language translator is to come up with such a translation that feels like an original text.

Professionals should take into consideration cultural differences, slang, and other language peculiarities.

Language translators don’t have to focus on one single industry or topic; however, there are professionals that have a certain area of expertise.

How much do language translators make?

On average, language translators earn a little less than $17 per hour in the United States.

Translators can get paid on an hourly basis or for pieces of content.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to make anywhere between $13.50 and $32 per hour.

Entry-level language translators can earn around $28.000 per year, while top-level professionals with plenty of experience can make $66.000 and more annually.

Of course, the salary would depend on your level of experience, the company or individual that you work for, and the overall workload.

How much does it cost to become a language translator?

You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in order to become a language translator.

However, some companies might require specialists to have a degree.

A bachelor’s degree in general translation will cost around $27.000 per year (on average).

The cost does not include books, supplies, and accommodation.

You don’t need to have a license to become a language translator; however, you can choose to acquire a certificate as proof of competency.

The fee for the ATA certification program, for example, is $525.

What is the demand for language translators?

There will always be a high demand for language translators.

However, in case you want to earn more, you should choose the language that you are going to work with from the list of the highest paying translation languages.

Those include German, Arabic, French, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Italian, and Mandarin.

The language doesn’t necessarily need to be the most widespread one in order to become the highest paying translation language.

The list might differ from country to country, so make sure to do your research before you decide which language you want to specialize in.

How long does it take to become a language translator?

In case you decide to go for a bachelor’s degree, it will take you four years to acquire one.

You don’t necessarily need to choose general translation; if you want to provide translation services in a specific discipline, you can go for a degree in engineering, IT, and so on.

If you want to earn an ATA certification, you would have to pass a three-hour exam.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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