If you listen well, possess a strong command of English and revel in helping others, you may be a natural as a sign language interpreter. While you should assess whether you have the education and personal skills to translate the spoken word to the deaf or hard of hearing, you also may be curious about the type of salary you might expect. Review this issue from several angles, keeping in mind that sign language interpreters cut a rather distinctive profile. In fact, only about 50,000 interpreters work in the United States.
Assess the nationwide picture of sign language interpreters. Of the 50,320 interpreters employed in the United States as of May 2012, their mean annual salary was $53,410; their mean hourly rate was $25.68, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Focus on those industries that hire the greatest number of sign language interpreters, along with how much, on average, these industries pay: professional, technical and scientific services, $61,170; elementary and secondary schools, $41,560; hospitals, $45,960; colleges, universities and professional schools, $58,560; and local governments, $49,320.
Tantalize your calculator by reviewing those industries that pay the highest average salary to sign language interpreters: management, scientific and technical consulting services, $109,930; computer systems design and ancillary services, $104,070; branches of the federal government, $74,290; mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse centers, $62,390; and other professional, scientific and technical services, $61,170.
Review the states that employ the greatest number of sign language interpreters. The top five states, the number of interpreters employed there and the average salaries are: California, 7,860, $51,340; Virginia, 4,000, $90,900; Texas, 3,860, $46,190; New York, 3,590, $56,750; and Florida, 1,930, $40,770.
Contrast those figures with states that pay sign language interpreters the highest average salary: Virginia, $90,900; Maine, $62,350; Maryland, $62,010; New Jersey, $59,400; and Colorado, $57,480. Note that only the state of Virginia enjoys the twin distinction of employing the greatest number of sign language interpreters and paying them a top wage. The number of sign language interpreters working in the other four top-paying states are: Maine, 150; Maryland, 870; New Jersey, 590; and Colorado, 1,200.
Balance these telling figures with the knowledge that the average salaries of sign language interpreters in certain metropolitan areas are higher than the average in some of the five top-paying states. For example, interpreters in the Washington, D.C., area make an average of $92,390 a year; those in the Augusta-Richmond County area of Georgia make an average of $70,410.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook and Wages, Interpreters and Translators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Interpreters and Translators
- Degree Directory.org: What Is the Average Salary for a Sign Language Interpreter?
- Education Portal: Be an American Sign Language Interpreter: Salary and Career Info
- Job prospects are very good for sign language interpreters. In fact, the BLS estimates that the need for interpreters will increase by 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much higher than the average of all the occupations that the bureau tracks.
With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.