On average, American and Canadian translators make $35,000-$45,000 per year. Their Australian colleagues earn about $28,000, and those based in the UK receive just £18,000-£21,000 ($23,000-$27,000). Meanwhile, in Norway and Switzerland, the annual translator salary ranges from $61,000 to over $94,000.
Though salaries depend on a wide array of aspects such as experience, education and performance, the most important deciding factors are location and language pair specializations. If you’re planning to join the ranks of professional translators, this guide details everything that can influence your future salary.
Translator Salary Influencers
Recent Salary.com reports and PayScale surveys demonstrate that there’s a wide pay gap between entry-level translators and the industry’s top earners. In this profession, numerous influencing factors can have a major effect on salaries. The most significant factors are outlined below.
Foreign and multinational companies will always need translators but not all language pairs are in demand. The highest salaries are available to experts in obscure, uncommon languages or technical texts (contracts, scientific papers, etc.) For instance, Australian English-Spanish translators make $14-19 per hour, while those who specialize in English-Danish legal texts start at a rate of $42-50.
Though most translators are employed by private companies, some find careers in public service. Several government agencies constantly seek out new terminologists, transliterators and interpreters, offering competitive wages and extensive benefits packages.
For example, the Department of Justice hires hundreds of new court interpreters every year. At $26 per hour, the average court interpreter salary is almost $10,000 higher than the national average, with top earners making around $85,000. On top of that, government translators can expect a lot of overtime, for which they are compensated at approximately $55-70 per hour.
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Translator Salary in the US
In the U.S., yearly translator wages start from $24,000-30,000 and slowly increase to upwards of $70,000 with experience. Seasoned experts in top senior-level positions earn upwards of $90,000 a year. Unfortunately, almost half of all American translators don’t receive sufficient health benefits. In fact, only 33% of them get dental coverage.
Translator Salary in Canada
The annual salary of a translator in Canada ranges from C$33,000 to C$67,000 ($26,000-52,000), though people who have over 10 years of experience report wages up to C$77,000 ($59,000). While these rates are lower than Canada’s national average, job satisfaction is much higher in this profession.
Translator Salary in the UK
Entry-level translators can expect no more than £20,000 ($25,000) annually until they gain a few years of experience. However, top earners with 10-15 years on the job receive a salary of £30,000-£45,000 ($38,000-$58,000). Most UK-based professionals don’t earn a worthwhile wage, but that is compensated by some of the largest bonuses in the industry. British employers tend to focus on performance, offering weekly/monthly bonus incentives that can potentially double their workers’ earnings.
Translator Salary in Australia
Translation experts report wages of approximately AU$75,000 ($57,000) across Australia. Of course, the starting wages are much lower. In fact, most beginners make less than half of that during their first 3-5 years in the industry. That said, the salaries are expected to grow exponentially as demand increases. Just in the past five years, the translator employment rate rose by 33.1%, and it’s expected to hit 50% by 2018.
Translator Salary in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the most profitable destinations for translators, with salaries ranging from CHF480,000 ($59,000) to CHF810,000 ($94.000). For the most part, this is due to the high demand and low availability of Sweedish language interpreters.
Translator Salary in Norway
Norwegian language specialists are valued all around the world, so Norway-based translators receive an unsurpassed entry-level salary of approximately NOK520,000 ($63,000). Furthermore, most senior-level positions require just 5-8 years of experience and pay NOK710,000-NOK760,000 ($8,000-$91,000).
Although average wages are highly inconsistent in different countries, the way experience influences salaries is similar all around the world. Regardless of the actual pay rates, English-speaking translators (residents of the U.S., Canada, Australia or the UK) can eventually triple their initial salaries. Meanwhile, top earners from Norway and Sweeden make just twice more than their entry-level colleagues.
That being said, senior-level positions in English-speaking nations imply at least 10-15 years of previous experience. Swiss translators reach the top of their career ladder in 8-10 years, and Norwegians can potentially get there in five.
Here’s a breakdown of average entry-level and upper-level wages:
- U.S.: $24,000-70,000
- Canada: $29,000-67,000
- Australia: $23,000-65,000
- UK: $21,000-58,000
- Norway: $63,000-91,000
- Switzerland: $59,000-94,000
With the exception of certain government jobs, translators work during regular business hours. However, most translators’ salaries are proportional to their performance. They have daily, weekly or monthly quotas, which usually imply a number of pages/words to be interpreted. If they overdeliver on these quotas, they are rewarded with bonus pay.
Bonuses & Benefit Packages
An overwhelming majority of translation jobs offer substantial pay bonuses for outstanding performance, accuracy and work ethic. Though this doesn’t apply to government agencies, all public sector employees are eligible for lucrative overtime rates.
In the U.S., Canada and Australia translators earn an average of $1,600-2,000 in bonus payments each year. Their Swiss and Norwegian colleagues aren’t too far ahead, with a total of about $1,900-2,200. Meanwhile, most UK-based professionals receive just £750-800 ($960-1,050).
Excluding countries like Canada, where healthcare is free for everyone, 62% of all translators receive benefit packages. That number grew from just 50% in the past four years, thanks to recently established European Translators’ Association and its American counterpart, which have joined forces to lobby for interpreters’ rights.
The demand for high-quality translation has skyrocketed with the rise of online content. According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in this industry is expected to grow at a rate of 29% over the next decade.
Anyone with a Bachelor degree and sufficient knowledge of at least two languages can start a career in translation. No training or certification is required, though most companies require applicants to complete on-the-job training courses.
Every few years, the industry is plagued with fear of automated translation. Sure, someday AI-powered computers may be able to perform an accurate interpretation. But, language experts and leading AI developers agree that the technology is light years away from such capabilities.
In fact, the industry is one of the world’s most reliable business sectors, with an extremely positive job outlook as well as an ever-growing translator salary. There’s plenty of room for career growth and ample opportunities for more than just earning a living.