Medical interpreters help individuals who have limited English proficiency communicate with doctors and other health care staff. Technically, interpreters work with oral language while translators work with written words, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salary of a medical interpreter is usually paid at an hourly rate, and most interpreters of all types earn at least $19 per hour.
Interpreters must be fluent in at least two languages. To help patients, their families and health care providers communicate, medical interpreters need strong skills in both medical terminology and casual conversational language, and must also be sensitive to cultural differences. The interpreter must pay close attention at all times and express all discussion clearly to all parties involved. Some interpreters translate continually during a discussion, while others listen and wait until a speaker is finished before providing the interpretation.
The median salary for a medical interpreter was about $38,600 in January 2011, says Salary.com. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many medical interpreters work part-time, and shows the median hourly rate for all interpreters and translators at $19.65 in 2009. The middle 50 percent on the earnings scale were making $14.58 to $27.20, and the top 10 percent $35.65 per hour and higher. The average pay for interpreters and translators working in hospitals was $21.17 per hour in 2009, or $44,040 per year.
Urban areas, especially Washington, D.C, the New York City area and cities in California, provide the largest numbers of employment opportunities for interpreters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More opportunities are likely to develop in smaller communities as the immigrant population spreads out. Virginia was the highest-paying state for interpreters and translators in 2009, at $33.35 per hour on average or $69,360 per year. These workers in the District of Columbia were making $32.24 per hour on average. The greater metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. including Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, provided an average pay rate of $39.45 per hour to interpreters and translators. In the New York City area, they were making $34.02 per hour on average.
Health care and social assistance organizations employed about 13 percent of interpreters and translators in 2008, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with many working at hospitals. The occupation is likely to experience rapid growth partly due to large increases in the non-English speaking population in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts high demand for interpreters in health care because of the critical nature of information in that area.