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Career Q&A: Interpreter

In Demand: Careers in Health Care, Career Voyages, U.S. Dept. of Labor

What will I do?

Medical interpreters listen to what the doctor says and translates that message into the patient’s language. In this way, the doctor can ask questions about how the patient feels and the patient can describe what’s wrong. An understanding of both cultures is very important,because a certain expression my mean one thing in one culture and something different in the other. These clues need to be conveyed sensitively.

What training do I need?

Medical interpreters need to know English plus at least on other language well enough to talk easily in both . To specialize as a medical interpreter, students must learn about medicine, its terms and its tests.

The education to become a medical interpreter can vary, but most interpreters have a four –year bachelor’s degree. At this time, there is no universal certificate for all interpreters.

How will I get the training?

Specialized classes are offered at colleges around the country and at training programs in schools other than universities. On-the-job training is very helpful in learnng how to share medical information in two languages. Classes will also give training on the culture and its approach to health care.

What will I get paid?

Many medical interpreters work in hospitals. Some interpreters are self-employed, meaning that the hospital does not hire the interpreter full time but instead calls when the patients need someone who speaks their language. The hospital then pays for the time the interpreter gives. Salaries vary from less than $25,790 to $43,860. Those interpreters receiving a salary in the top 10% of salaries make $57,100.

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