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The Interpreter Job Market

Professional interpretation is one of the most lucrative, growing and diverse fields in California. As the state’s population becomes increasingly diverse, the demand for professional, certified interpreters in the courts has increased significantly over the past few decades.

Court Interpreters in Northern California recently negotiated a new contract providing for a 2% wage increase in October of 2014 and a subsequent 2% wage increase in October of 2015 (see the link to the full press-release under News).

Currently, full-time Certified Interpreters in the California Courts make about $73,000/year. 

In U.S. District Courts, interpreters in California can earn $108,000 – $141,000/year.

(See recent job postings here)

In addition, society has  started to recognize the importance of professionalizing interpreters in new areas, beyond the criminal courts, most noticeably in health care.

Labor Market Information & Analysis

The following is an analysis of the interpreter job market in California, with employment statistics and job prospects for trained interpreters and translators. 

In 2010, the Judicial Council of California, which oversees the Court Interpreters Program and the Certification of Court Interpreters in California, published a report entitled, “2010 Language Use and Interpreter Need in California Superior Court,” which concludes that, “taken together, the trends in service days for spoken languages suggest a sizeable and growing demand for interpretative services in California courts. The state’s courts provided more than 1 million days of spoken language interpretative services in 147 languages with the total number of service days for mandated proceedings increasing 14 percent during the study period….Spanish, as the most used language comprising 83 percent of all mandated services days, continues to be a major force driving interpreter service need. It, along with Mandarin, were the only languages showing significant increases during the study period – 11 percent and 89 percent, respectively.” The full report can be found at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/language-interpreterneed-10.pdf

Despite the lingering effects of the recession, California’s fiscal crisis and the resulting budget cuts that have impacted county courts throughout the state in the past few years, the California courts continue to hire interpreters on a regular basis. A  survey of interpreter job postings on Indeed.com (April 2013) identified at least a dozen openings in California Superior Courts statewide. This demand is expected to increase due to the upcoming of expansion of interpreter services in California Superior Court, as a result of a lawsuit filed against the Judicial Council of California, alleging inadequate language access for people with limited English proficiency. In addition, there is an on-going need for interpreters in a variety of non-legal venues and settings, such as workers compensation appeals board, medical appointments and evaluations, social service agencies, immigration court, school districts, and non-profits, to name a few. Interpreter agencies statewide hire interpreters on an on-going, as-needed basis. A survey on Caljobs.ca.gov in June of 2014 produced 202 listings for interpreter jobs in California ( https://www.caljobs.ca.gov/jobbanks/joblist.asp?session=jobsearch&geo=0601000000&t=q&faqq=&geotype=&city=&zip=&radius= ). A more recent survey on Indeed.com ( http://www.indeed.com/jobs?as_and=Interpreter&as_phr=&as_any=&as_not=&as_ttl=&as_cmp=&jt=all&st=&salary=&radius=25&l=California&fromage=any&limit=10&sort=&psf=advsrch ) produced 550 interpreter postings in California, and more than 2,800 listings nationwide.

The website Labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov (http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/OccGuides/Detail.aspx?Soccode=273091&geography=0601000000) states that “Spanish Interpreters and Translators should have good job opportunities. This is due to the expected increase in the Spanish-speaking population. In healthcare and legal fields it is critical that information be fully understood among all parties. Therefore, demand is expected to be strong for Interpreters and Translators specializing in these fields…. In California, the number of Interpreters and Translators is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Interpreters and Translators are expected to increase by 29.2 percent, or 2,600 jobs between 2010 and 2020. (See the chart below).

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth for Interpreters and Translators

Geographic Area

(Estimated Year-Projected Year)

Estimated

Employment

Projected

Employment

Numeric

Change

Percent

Change

Additional Openings

Due to Net

Replacements

California (2010-2020)

8,900

11,500

2,600

29.2

2,400

Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation

 ANNUAL JOB OPENINGS

In California, an average of 270 new job openings per year is expected for Interpreters and Translators, plus an additional 240 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 510 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings for Interpreters and Translators

Geographic Area

(Estimated Year-

Projected Year)

Jobs From Growth

Jobs Due to

Net Replacements

Total Annual

Job Openings

California (2010-2020)

270

240

510

Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation

Wages for interpreters and translators (2013)

San Francisco Bay Area $26.99 $56,148

Source: http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov

Other job opportunities for interpreters exist in the health care industry. The website coeeccc.net contains a study about Healthcare interpreters, produced by the Centers for Excellence and the Health Care Interpreters in California Initiative (http://www.coeccc.net/documents/HC_Interpreter_CA_2012.pdf#search=”interpreter”), that states that “In 2011, there were a total of 289 job postings for medical/healthcare interpreters in the state of California. The types of jobs that are posted for medical/healthcare interpreters are mainly part-time, contract, on-call, and per diem positions,… Spanish were in the most demand in 2011, with 117 job postings (over 40%) seeking these translators. The other popular languages included Cantonese/Mandarin (53 job postings; 18%) and Vietnamese (27; 9%)….Over the 12-month period, there was an average of 24 postings for medical interpreters per month. The most number of related job postings (35 each month) were in March, May, and October.”…There were 32 job posting in San Francisco County and 19 in Alameda County during this period.

For an  overview of job opportunities for translators and interpreters in California, go to:

http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/cgi/databrowsing/occExplorerQSDetails.asp?searchCriteria=interpreter&careerID=&menuChoice=&geogArea=0601000000&soccode=273091&search=Explore+Occupation

  • Legal and Community Interpreting

    Saturday 25 October 2014
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