Interpreter: Human Services Career

The job of the Interpreter is to help facilitate discussion, mediations, meetings and all forms of communication between two parties who do not speak one another’s language fluently. In the context of Human Services, this is generally a person who helps non-English speakers to communicate with Human Services workers in order to help them receive some form of Human Services benefit or service. This can take a variety of form, such as an Interpreter who works within a Non-Profit communicating to migrant workers about their rights. Interpreters might also work in a Department of Human Services Adult and Family Services office helping people who are citizens or working towards citizenship apply for and receive any benefits their family might be entitled to. In most cases benefits will require at least one family member to have citizenship although often the adult members of the household might have very limited English understanding. The context in which an interpreter are many, but the common thread is helping those who do not speak English as a fluent language communicate with Human Services agency workers.

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Some of the tasks performed by an Interpreter in a Human Services agency include, but are not limited to:

  • Helping Non-English Speakers fill out applications for Human Services
  • Acting as an interpreter during an eligibility interview for government benefits
  • Answering the phone at Human Services agencies to answer questions for Non-English speakers
  • Working within Human Services agencies to ensure that paperwork, signage and other written or digital materials have been appropriately translated into languages relevant for their area
  • Acting as an interpreter between one Human Services agency and another in different countries to transmit relevant information between agencies.

How an Interpreter is a Service to Society

There are many people who enter into the US due to a variety of reasons without first using English. This can be a migrant worker trying to provide for their family in one of the countries South of the border. It can be a family who has migrated to the US and is still learning English as part of the process of becoming citizens. It can include both legal and illegal residents of the US. There are also those who have come to the US as part of an asylum seeking process wherein they are fleeing oppression in their home country and may have had to leave under duress without any chance to learn English first. The groups and individuals that an Interpreter might help as part of a Human Services agency are many and varied. The help provided is truly invaluable as many people who are unable to speak English are in need of assistance from Human Services agencies and without the help of Interpreters they would be unable to accurately account for their situation and therefore it would be difficult if not impossible for them to receive benefits they were otherwise entitled to.

How this Job Services Society

This nation was founded on immigration and was built on the back of immigrant labor throughout all of its long history the lifeblood of the US has been its mixing in of new cultures, blood, idea and peoples from all over the world. In many cases, those who move to the United States have not first had a chance to learn English for a variety of reasons including seeking asylum to avoid repression and war at home. The US became a juggernaut in the world due in no small part to the fact that it has attracted the best and brightest from all over the world along with those who might have had more simple goals, but wanted to add to and take part in the American Experience. For those who come to the United States without having first learned English it is very important for them to be understood accurately to ensure that they are able to make use of the Human Services agencies and programs they are entitled to benefit from. This in turn helps society as it stabilizes new immigrant populations and gives them the ground work to take the next steps towards becoming full citizens and contributing to society.

Education Required to Join the Workforce

To become a translator the most common requirement is to have earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a specialization in a relevant language. The most commonly desired language is Spanish due to the fact that most countries in the Americas that do not speak English, speak Spanish as their primary language and in turn the United States has many immigrants who speak Spanish as their first language. There are many other useful languages such as: Vietnamese, French (many parts of the Caribbean and West Africa speak French), Russian, Serbian, Bosnian, Romanian, Hmong and many others depending on your locality. The more languages you are able to speak fluently the greater your chance of being hired by a Human Services agency as a translator.

Expected Salary for the Interpreter

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the yearly Median wage for an Interpreter is $49,110. This of course will vary tremendously depending on the locality in which you work and also the agency as well as your tenure and educational background.

Next Steps

The next steps to take to begin your career as an interpreter are to first determine the region you wish to work in. Then you will want to speak with local Human Services agencies to find out what the preferred languages they are looking for in interpreters. Alternately, you can plan to work for an Interpreting call center agency that sub-contracts out to Human Services agencies for a fee. Once you have determined your language of choice you will want to evaluate several schools and programs to find one that fits well with your educational and career goals. After you have earned your Bachelor’s degree you can begin applying for careers in Interpreting.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Interpreter’s reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2023.