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Interpreter: Salary and conditions

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Case studies

  • The range of salaries is varied and there are relatively few salaried jobs. The highest paid jobs tend to be based outside the UK. Working conditions and pay are considerably better in the private market sector for conference interpreting than in the UK’s PSI/commercial agency sector.
  • Freelance hourly rates vary from £30 to £40, rising to £60 for very experienced interpreters, also depending on the setting, type of interpreting required, location, the interpreter's experience and level of demand for the languages. Beginner staff interpreters at the European Commission start at level AD5 (around 4,350 Euros a month), while experienced interpreters can start at level AD7 (around 5,550 Euros a month). Beginner freelancers net a daily rate of around 310 Euros, while experienced freelancers can expect in the region of 400 Euros a day.
  • Traditionally, interpreters have been paid travel time and costs, along with a guaranteed minimum fee (normally two or three hours' work), and cancellation/curtailment fees if appropriate. This is no longer the case in some settings, notably PSI interpreting.
  • Agencies and telephone interpreting are increasingly being used to reduce costs, particularly in the public sector, as interpreters receive a lower rate per minute or per hour with limited or no travel reimbursements; this is likely to reduce typical salaries in the affected sectors.
  • Annual income varies depending on the hours worked. It may be difficult to sustain a stable income from interpreting unless you are employed by one organisation as a conference interpreter or by several agencies. Most interpreters have additional employment, for example in translation, teaching or training.
  • Working hours for freelancers are flexible. While business, routine medical and court-related assignments tend to take place during office hours, evening and weekend work is not uncommon, especially for police interviews and emergency medical care.
  • The Association Internationale des Interprètes de ConfĂ©rence (AIIC)  stipulates that a conference interpreter’s working day should not exceed two sessions of between two-and-a-half and three hours each.
  • Telephone-based interpreters can work at any time, serving both national and international clients.
  • Interpreters may be based inside conference centres or working on the telephone for long periods.
  • The majority of interpreters are self-employed with most finding work through networking and registration with professional directories or language agencies. It can take time to become established and build a regular client base.
  • Working on a freelance basis allows interpreters to accommodate part-time hours and career breaks to suit their needs, offering flexible services and choosing the work they wish to undertake.
  • Opportunities for employment may arise anywhere, especially for community-based assignments and telephone work, but the main centres for international conferences include Brussels, London, Geneva and Paris. In the UK, employment opportunities outside London are increasing.
  • Business or smart casual dress is usually required, with the exception of telephone interpreting which is normally done from the interpreter's home.
  • The role requires a huge amount of concentration, which can be tiring.
  • You may be required to be away from home overnight or to be abroad for longer periods.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

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Written by AGCAS editors
September 2013

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