Becoming a Spanish Translator: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about a Spanish translator's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job duties and see the pros and cons of becoming a Spanish translator.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Spanish Translator

A Spanish translator takes material written in English and converts it to Spanish or vice versa. Therefore, you must be fluent in both languages if you want to pursue this career. The following pros and cons might help you decide if becoming a Spanish translator is right for you.

Pros of Being a Spanish Translator
Rapid anticipated job growth (46% for translators and interpreters from 2012-2022)*
Can specialize in various subject matters (legal, healthcare, business)*
Flexibility in work settings (anywhere with computer and internet access)*
Self-employment opportunities (One in five translators and interpreters were self-employed in 2012)*

Cons of Being a Spanish Translator
Advancing to paid positions can take time (many start as unpaid volunteer or intern)*
Varied schedules with periods of inadequate or excessive work *
Might deal with deadlines*
Pressure to maintain complete accuracy*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

As a Spanish translator, you would ensure that whatever you're translating is as identical to the original material as possible; you would have to strive to capture the tone, context and sentence flow without losing any of the meaning. Not all words - like cultural references and slang - translate smoothly between English and Spanish.

Because you might often receive and turn in assignments electronically, you may be able to work from anywhere with computer and internet access. If you're self-employed, your work hours can fluctuate, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that many self-employed translators work full-time during normal business hours.


Spanish translators can specialize in various fields, such as medicine, law, literature and localization. To be a medical or law translator, you must understand the terminology and be able to translate it for laypeople. Literary translators often work with authors or writers to convert their books, articles or stories into different languages. Companies hire localization translators to make products look like they were created in the countries where companies plan to sell them. To succeed as a localization translator, you should be familiar with technical aspects as well as your intended audiences.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

Career prospects for Spanish translators are increasing along with the Hispanic population in the U.S. According to the BLS, employment of translators and interpreters was expected to grow 46% from 2012-2022, which was much faster than the average for all occupations. Since it's vital for medical and legal information to be passed on appropriately, translators with expertise in these areas may have more opportunities available to them.

A Spanish translator's earnings can vary by specialty, skill and experience level. Self-employed translators tend to charge by the word or hour. May 2014 BLS data reported a median hourly wage of $20.96 for translators and interpreters. The same data showed a median salary of about $43,000 a year, with the lowest 10% earning about $22,000 and the highest 10% earning approximately $80,000.

What are the Requirements?

Spanish and English fluency is the most important requirement for a Spanish translating career. Additionally, you need to acquire translating skills, which can be learned in multiple ways, such as through courses, seminars or postsecondary training. The BLS stated that bachelor's degrees are often required by employers, but you have options for what you can major in.

A few schools offer translation majors where you learn translation techniques, culture and translation specialties. You can also earn a degree in the specific subject you want to specialize in. A master's degree may be necessary if you plan to specialize in a more technical area, such as localization.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Experience and training are the leading qualifications employers look for when hiring a Spanish translator. Employers in specialty areas like law or healthcare may look for translators with experience in those areas. Important qualities for translators include writing and listening skills, business expertise and sensitivity to cultural differences. The following information from May 2012 job postings gives you an example of what employers are looking for.

  • A national language organization sought a Spanish translator with 2-5 years of experience to contract with the federal government in Washington, D.C., and translate business documents for at least 10 hours per week.
  • A global cosmetics company in California was hiring for a Spanish translator with a bachelor's degree, 3-5 years of relevant experience and expertise in business, marketing and sales to provide copy for marketing and training materials, presentations and websites, among other things.
  • A national corrections company had an opening for a medical translator at one of its facilities in Mississippi. Requirements included a high school diploma, strong written and verbal Spanish and English skills, knowledge of medical terminology and at least one year of training or experience.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Though not required for employment, becoming certified might help you qualify for certain positions. In fact, the BLS reported that those with professional certifications may have the best job opportunities. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers its eligible members the Certified Translator (CT) credential if they pass an exam. To be eligible, you need to meet education and/or experience requirements. CTs must renew their certification with continuing education credits every three years.

As a newbie Spanish translator, you can gain the experience many employers seek through volunteer opportunities. Local organizations often need translators. Additionally, the ATA partners with the Red Cross to dispatch translators to disaster areas.

Other Careers to Consider

If you prefer oral communication to written communication, consider becoming an interpreter. These professionals can specialize in similar subjects and perform similar duties, except they communicate verbally. The job outlook and average salary for interpreters is the same as for translators.

If you enjoy translating complex information into a simple, easy-to-understand language, a career as a technical writer might suit you. Many technical writers have a bachelor's degree in English or journalism that they combine with technical proficiency. BLS data showed an anticipated 17% growth rate for technical writers during 2010-2020. According to a 2011 BLS report, the average earnings for technical writers were $32 per hour, or $67,000 per year.

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