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Interpreter: Salary and conditions

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  • The range of salaries for interpreters 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 but could be in the region of £30 to £60 depending on experience, type of interpreting, location and level of demand for the languages.
  • Beginner staff interpreters at the European Commission start at level AD5 (around 4,384 Euros a month), while experienced interpreters can start at level AD7 (around 5,612 Euros a month).
  • 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.
  • 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. Business, routine medical and court-related assignments tend to take place during office hours but evening and weekend work is not uncommon, especially for police interviews and emergency medical care.
  • 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.
  • 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 long periods.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

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Written by AGCAS editors
September 2015

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