Medical Translator: Job Duties, Salary and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

In order to work as a medical translator, you must be fluent in at least two languages and have a sound knowledge of medical terminology. Although not required, completion of a medical assistant program or a degree could be beneficial when seeking work in this field.

Essential Information

In both hospital and corporate settings, medical translators help ensure the health of the populace and of the healthcare industry. Medical translators possess at least a high school diploma, though many candidates seek a degree or complete a medical assistant program. They may also be required to receive certification through an organization such as the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (CMI). Individuals in this profession must be fluent in at least two languages and have an in-depth understanding of medical terminology.

Required Education High school diploma; a degree or completion of medical assistant program may be beneficial
Other Requirements Fluency in at least two languages and knowledge of medical terminology; certification may also be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 20% (for all interpreters and translators)*
Median Salary (2019) $51,830 annually (for all interpreters and translators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Medical Translator

Medical translators, also known as healthcare translators, are responsible for converting physicians' advice and diagnoses, written patient information, pharmacological instructions, and hospitals' informational brochures into a second language. Some medical translators work for companies that produce medical equipment. Such translators are responsible for translating the instructions of use for the equipment.

Most medical translators are required to convey the necessary information in only one other language, and to do so in writing. As they are not medical or healthcare interpreters, translators are not responsible for assisting patients or healthcare professionals in the physician's office. Instead, they act as the written liaison between company and healthcare professional or healthcare professional and patient.

Responsibilities of a Medical Translator

It is not enough for medical translators to be fluent in two languages. They must understand complex medical terminology and concepts. They are also responsible for conveying complex ideas simply so that a layperson can understand. It is important for such translators to remember that, while some diseases and medical terms have a direct translation in the second language, others have adopted the term from English. They should also be aware of cultural sensitivity issues.

Medical translators are also responsible for ensuring patient-physician confidentiality. As with medical interpreters, medical translators may be called upon to convey personal information in a second language. It is the translator's responsibility to maintain the patient's privacy when doing so.

Salary and Employment Outlook of a Medical Translator

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both salaried translators and interpreters working in the general medical, surgical and hospital fields earned a mean wage of $53,600 per year in 2019 (www.bls.gov). Since a number of translators work on a freelance or contract basis, the BLS also notes that translators and interpreters in the field earn a mean hourly wage of $27.40. The BLS mentioned that the employment of all types of interpreters and translators could grow by as much as 20% from 2019-2029.

Medical translators are responsible for interpreting and translating an assortment of medical information. Common translation duties include patient information, diagnoses, or pharmacological instructions. They must be fluent in two languages and may complete a medical assistant program or degree. Many translators work as freelancers and/or contractors.

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