The career interpreter: Market Forces Shaping the Profession

Is interpreting a reliable path to a middle-class life? What are the market forces shaping the industry and how do these play-out in interpreter take-home pay? And what does this mean for the future of the Profession and the Industry?

The global language service industry is by some estimates approximately $70 BN, with the U.S. market representing 30% of that. The incredible array, moreover, of societal value the interpreting profession generates is felt across health systems, school districts, higher learning institutions, non-profits, churches, courts, and government agencies. Moreover, 10% of the U.S. population are English Language Learners, and an additional 1% are part of the deaf community. Add to this the increasing migratory and refugee trends of the last few years and the overwhelming demand and societal value of community interpreting begins to, barely, come into focus.

But, how much of this demand and societal value translates into a viable career path for interpreters?

The alarming reality: 67% of all first-year free-lance interpreters do not make enough money to pay their bills working solely as interpreters. Rates of interpreters that leave the profession within a few years are alarmingly high. All too frequently interpreting, among freelancers, is viewed not as a career, but as part-time, supplemental work.

There are no easy answers. Some of the questions we will explore are below: How viable is interpreting as a career path?

What are the market forces shaping the profession?

What is the job outlook and growth trajectory for freelance interpreters?

What are some case studies of interpreters that have successfully made a living out of this profession?