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How Much Do Translators Earn? 2018 in the Rear View Mirror

I’m just starting out and I wonder if I should make a career of being a full time freelance translator. My main issue is income. How much can a newbie freelance translator make? How much should company in-house translators earn in this day and age?


Let's open these young Padawan's questions up.


The most recent ATA wage survey from 2015, which used self-reported income data from 2014, reported that ATA-certified translators earned about $54,000 a year, and non-ATA certified translators about $45,000 a year. The ATA survey lets users choose only between “full time” and “part time” status. And, for example, a translator who works about 30 hours a week can be considered full time, but many would call that part time. Nonetheless, the survey is a good overview of income levels for freelancers, in-house employees, state employees etc.


The American BLS also has data on translators and interpreters. Their average of $46,000 a year is lower than the median reported by ATA-certified translators, but higher than that of non-certified translators. BLS data do not include independent contractors or government employees, i.e. the majority of US translators. ATA is approximately 80% independent contractors, and federal translation employees are some of the highest-paid freelancers in the Americas, so this data is certainly skewed.


The Authors Guild recently did a survey of literary translators’ income, and the German literary translators association did the same in Germany. You can read