The need for court interpreters is expected to increase across the country as the population of foreign language speakers increases. Trained and certified court interpreters will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of high-paying job opportunities in federal, state and local courts. Interpreters will also have the opportunity to choose between contract work, part-time jobs and salaried positions.
Court interpreters use their proficiency and knowledge of two languages (native and passive language) to convert spoken words from English to a foreign language or from a foreign language to English. They help foreign defendants and witnesses during civil or criminal court cases. This way, judges, attorneys, jury members and court personnel can understand what is being said by individuals who do not speak English fluently. In some courts, they may also be responsible for the oral interpretation of any documents used during proceedings.
Court interpreters may earn their college degree in a foreign language or some other major in addition to completing a certificate program in translation and interpretation. Some colleges and universities also offer legal interpretation certification programs for specific languages such as Spanish and Korean. These training programs provide interpreters with the language skills and knowledge of legal terminology that they need to work in various court settings. Most states also require court interpreters to obtain a national or state certification to work in their courts.
There are a variety of certifications that court interpreters can earn. Each state has established certification requirements with the exception of a few states such as Alabama and Illinois. Court interpreters can obtain the Nationally Certified Judiciary Interpreter and Translator (NCJIT) credential by passing the written and oral tests administered by the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT). The NCJIT credential is currently recognised in 11 states. The National Center for State Courts also offers a Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE) program. The federal certification is recognised nationwide in U.S. District Courts.
As of May 2006, court interpreters earned approximately £11.10 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary rates for court interpreters vary based on the demand and on the interpreter's experience level. States such as California have a shortage of qualified interpreters, so many of them are hired as full-time employees. As of 2009, the starting annual salary for court interpreters in California was £44,200. The NAJIT reports that court interpreters typically make between £19,500 to £52,000 a year.
Most court interpreters are considered independent contractors because they are hired to work on a temporary basis depending on how often the court needs their services. Working as an independent contractor often requires them to pay for their own expenses, including the cost of travelling to and from various court houses within an area or state.
Court interpreters who are hired for contract work are typically paid per assignment. According to the NAJIT, the daily pay rate for federal interpreters is £198 as of January 2000.