What Do Community Interpreters Do and Can Community Interpreter Certificate Lead to a High Paying Career?

The United States is a country of high linguistic diversity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 300 languages are spoken in American households. Additionally, 41% of those who speak a foreign language at home are classified as Limited English Proficient or L.E.P. This diversity in language necessitates widespread community interpreting services. Community interpreters provide critical services for L.E.P. Americans, including helping them receive important government services, like Social Security and facilitating communication during labor disputes, making them increasingly valuable to employers in a variety of industries. For instance, community interpreters are often hired to help non-English speakers obtain driver’s licenses, as many employees at motor vehicle registration offices lack interpretation skills. Yet perhaps the greatest benefit offered by community interpreters is that they offer an alternative to more-expensive professional interpreters that are often difficult to find.  

How much do community interpreters earn?  

            But do community interpreters make good money? Although serving as a community interpreter can be a rewarding career, the average community interpreter in the U.S. makes approximately $47,000 a year (or $23 an hour) according to ZipRecruiter. However, this number varies depending on the company and the state in which the interpreter lives. For instance, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the average community interpreter salary sits above the national average at around $51,000.  This is because Massachusetts has a relatively high percentage of non-English speakers (about 22%). Additionally, community interpreters in corporate positions tend to earn more than those who work for the government.  Private companies tend to pay more for interpretation work. Pay also varies based on whether or not the interpretation is conducted remotely or on-site. Typically, remote interpreting pays less than on-site interpreting due to the fact that jobs for interpreting on-site usually requires greater expertise and knowledge of non-verbal communication methods. 

What is the process of getting a community interpreter certification?

            Community interpreter training is a multi-step process. First, prospective interpreters must complete a rigorous community interpreter course in order to earn a community interpreter certificate.  This includes intensive interpreter classes in industry-related terms and concepts to help interpreters better facilitate communication between their clients. Students are also given cultural training, as cultural differences can often hinder translation efforts and require extreme patience by the interpreter. Upon completion of the course, the students receive their community interpreter certification, allowing them to work as a professional interpreter. Becoming a community interpreter offers an opportunity for bilingual (or trilingual, etc) individuals, to pursue a career that, in spite of its relatively low pay, provides meaningful services for those who lack English language skills.

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Yana Fisher

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