Breaking Down The Medical Interpreter Job Description

Breaking Down The Medical Interpreter Job Description

Working as a Medical Interpreter So you’re interested in becoming an interpreter, specifically a medical interpreter, but you have some questions about the standard medical interpreter job description. You’re curious about the day to day roles and responsibilities of the work, and more importantly what the job market looks like today and in the future.

Luckily, we have some answers for you regarding the type of people who pursue medical interpreting, a day in the life of a medical interpreter, what medical interpreting professionals can expect to be paid, and how to become an interpreter.

Why Do People Pursue Medical Interpreting?

Most people become medical interpreters for two reasons:

  1. They speak multiple languages, and love to communicate in them
  2. They value the ability to help others and make a positive impact on other people’s lives

Whatever your reason for wanting to become an interpreter is, being able to speak multiple languages and caring for others is only part of what the job entails. The full medical interpreter job description requires language fluency and good communication skills on top of subject matter expertise, a highly organized personality, and the ability to interact with individuals from all different backgrounds.

What Is The Average Personality Of A Medical Interpreter?

Medical Interpreter PersonalitiesWhile we would be amiss to assume that all medical interpreters act and feel the same, there are a few key characteristics that make the best medical interpreters stand out from the crowd.

They are:

  • Empathetic and open to new ideas
  • Forever learners
  • Detail oriented
  • Punctual
  • Great multitaskers and able to work in stressful situations
  • Good listeners
  • Professional
  • In control of their emotions

The list can go on and on, but the important takeaway is that medical interpreting is a professional career like so many others.  It goes far beyond simply relaying conversations back and forth between two people. You must have an extensive knowledge of medical terminology, as well as the ability to bridge both language and cultural gaps in a professional manner.

You must also be extremely level headed, as often in hospitals situations can be life threatening. One of the most important characteristics on a standard medical interpreter job description: the ability to clearly communicate information without getting personally involved in a patient’s situation.

Sounds like you? If it does you may be wondering: what does a medical interpreter do on a day to day basis? Read on to find out about the different kinds of medical interpreters, and what a day in the life of a medical interpreter looks like.

What Are Different Kinds of Medical Interpreters?

Medical interpreting can be a full-time job, or it can have flexible hours – it depends upon a hospital or a health care center’s needs and your availability.

Generally there are a few different types of medical interpreters:

  • Full time medical interpreters
  • Part time medical interpreters
  • Per diem medical interpreters
  • On call medical interpreters

Full and part time interpreters work as their names imply. Per diem interpreters have a slightly less consistent schedule, working per day as needed, and on call interpreters work as such – without a consistent schedule, but available whenever and wherever their employer needs them.

On top of this, not all medical interpreters work directly in hospitals. Some provide services over the phone or via video remote methods depending on the preferences of the employer.

Interpreter’s schedules will depend on the hospital (or agency if you provide remote services) he or she works for. However, as there is quite a bit of flexibility available in how medical interpreters work, individuals are able to adapt their love of languages and helping others into a career that works for them.

What does a medical interpreter do on an average day?

Medical Interpreter Job ResponsibilitiesThis will depend on how you are providing your interpreting services – remote interpreters (telephonic and video remote) will field incoming calls from patients, doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals.

An on-staff medical interpreter on the other hand will work medical appointments as they come in, or have a full day’s worth of appointments to attend and interpret for already scheduled.

If you work for an agency which provides interpreters for medical institutions, you may be offered jobs on an as needed basis.

The common thread connecting all of these - no two days will ever look the same. You may be interpreting for a new mother one day, and explaining a life threatening disease to a family the next. As such, being a medical interpreter requires a high level of organization, drive, emotional stability, and flexibility.

Now that you know a little bit more about a standard medical interpreter job description, what is the medical interpreter job outlook like in terms of salaries?

What Can A Medical Interpreter Expect For A Salary?

Medical interpreters, like other professionals, can either be paid a standard salary or work on an hourly rate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, on average, medical interpreters can expect to make $48,470 a year, or $23.30 an hour.

That being said, salaries tend to depend on where you are working. For medical interpreters working in Boston, you can expect a salary range anywhere from around $37,000 to $57,000 (according to and glassdoor).

Naturally salaries and hourly wages depend on the hospital or agency you are working for, how often you work, and what the supply and demand for medical interpreters for your language pair is like in your area.

Where can You Get Trained to Become A Medical Interpreter?

Medical Interpreter Course As you gathered from our overview of a standard medical interpreter career, working as a medical interpreter requires a great deal of training and experience. There are a few ways to go about preparing, including degree programs for becoming interpreters, as well as medical interpreter training courses.

A medical interpreter course will generally teach the interpreter’s code of ethics (a standard by which all interpreters are expected to abide), as well as the necessary terminology for your chosen industry, and situational practicing.

Language Connections offers a 7 week, medical interpreter course that covers training for these topics in 8 languages: Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Haitian Creole, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Once you have completed medical interpreter training, you can go on to gain your medical interpreter certification (identifying you as a trained individual in medical interpretation) and begin working for hospitals or other healthcare institutions.

The medical interpreting field is gaining more and more recognition in the United States, and it is a vital job for the healthcare industry in order to provide the best care to all patients. If you are looking for work that will allow you to make a difference in the lives of others, while putting your language skills to good use, a medical interpreter career may be right for you!


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