The Definitive Guide to Finding Translator Jobs in NYC

The Definitive Guide to Finding Translator Jobs in NYC

If you’re a translator living in or near New York City and are looking for translator jobs, you’ve come to the right place.

Here is everything you need to know about your chances of finding a translation job in the city and what it takes to get one.

In-House Translation Jobs

New York City has its fair share of in-house translator jobs.

In fact, there are more in-house translation jobs in New York City than a lot of the other major cities in the U.S.

The reason is because of what you’ll find in New York. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the city that make it unique for freelance translators.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Every few years the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) for the country.

Even thought the last update was in 2015, it provides valuable data for people interested in knowing the state of translation/interpretation industry in a specific area, which in this case is the New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division area.

What do we learn from the stats?

Employment Numbers

In 2015, the metropolitan area that includes NYC had an estimate employment number of 2,180 jobs in the translation and interpretation field. The concentration of in-house translators and interpreters in this metropolitan area is lower than the concentration of translators and interpreters in the rest of the U.S.

Salary Information

In terms of salary for translators and interpreters in NYC, the BLS numbers give us three relevant data points:

Median Hourly WageMean Hourly WageAnnual Mean Wage
$26.82$26.08$54,250

Note: Remember the different between Median and Mean? Here’s a quick definition: The Mean is the average, where you take all the wages, add them up, and then divide by the number of wages you have. The Median, on the other hand, is the middle value of all the wages.

In-House: United Nations

First of all, the United Nations Headquarters is located in New York City.

And for those that don’t know much about the organization and its relationship with translators and interpreters, let’s look into it a bit deeper.

The UN has employed translators and interpreters since it came into existence. Since there are six official languages of the UN, language-related jobs typically require an expert level of fluency in at least two of the six:

  • English
  • French
  • Russian
  • Chinese
  • Arabic
  • Spanish

In-house positions at the UN are competitive. There’s no getting around that fact.

But the good thing is that the UN is constantly hiring for translators and there is no indication that it will stop hiring new language professionals any time soon, especially since translators and interpreters are needed not only in the New York headquarters, but also at the field sites in Nairobi, Geneva, Vienna, and elsewhere.

Here’s a recent job announcement for language professionals needed at the UN:

UN Translation Jobs - NYC

For more information on careers at the UN, check out the website at careers.un.org.

In-House: Other Government

The UN isn’t the only game in town when it comes to finding in-house language jobs in New York City.

Federal and State Courts

First of all, let’s talk about the court system.

Like any other large city, there are always openings for language professionals (especially interpreters) in the court system, whether it be the federal or state system.

The problem (for those looking for in-house positions) is that most of these positions are freelance in nature.

A lot of the courts across the country are moving towards hiring more per-diem interpreters. These interpreters are hired by the day or hour to perform language interpretation instead of being employed full-time by the courts. More like contract workers.

However, there are still opportunities to work as in-house interpreters for the courts. You just have to be much more proactive in monitoring the openings that come out and be ready to apply for one of the positions when it opens up.

City Government

The New York City government is huge.

Especially when compared to the major cities in other states across the U.S.

Here’s an unreadable org chart.

Translation jobs in New York City

That’s a lot of organizations.

Let’s look at the actual numbers.

  • Number of  employees: 325,000 (This is more than any single city in the U.S., and is more than every single state in the U.S. except for California, New York, and Texas.)
  • Number of departments/organizations: Around 70 departments, give or take a few.
  • Number of people living in NYC: 8.5 million residents as of 2015.
  • Number of languages spoken in New York City: According to some estimates, up to 800 different languages are spoken in the city.

So what do these numbers tell us?

They tell us that language issues are going to be very important in the city and that there are opportunities for in-house translators within the structure of the city government.

For proof, let’s check out the official job board for the New York City government.

A search on the term translator pulls back three different jobs:

A. Director of Publications and Language Access, Office of External Affairs

Translation Jobs NYC

Project Salary Range: $60,435.00 – $161,497.00 (Annual)

B. Junior Translation Project Manager, Office of External Affairs

Translation Jobs in New York City

Projected Salary Range: $18.96 – $31.56 (Hourly)

C. Editor/Writer, Office of External Affairs

Translator jobs in New York City

Projected Salary Range: $48,895.00 – $75,900.00 (Annual)

Additional Translation Jobs

OK, so we’ve looked at the UN, the court system, and the city government.

In addition to these translation jobs in New York City, there is one other place to look for in-house (and other) translator jobs in NYC.

The Indeed.com job search engine.

Below are some of the translator jobs available right now in New York:

Translator Jobs in NYC

Freelance Translation Jobs - NYC

All right, so I've written extensively above about finding in-house translator jobs in NYC.

However, as you know, not everyone wants to be an in-house translator. If that's you, you're probably interested in information about what it takes to be a freelance translator in New York City.

So let's first try and figure out how many translators there are in NYC.

Translator Numbers in NYC - New York Circle of Translators

How many translators are there in New York City?

Well, there's a few way to get some numbers, although it's important to remember that these numbers are only reported numbers, and obviously can't include numbers for those that don't report themselves as translators.

According to the NYCT website:

The New York Circle of Translators (NYCT) is a not-for-profit association supporting the growth and development of language professionals in today’s ever-changing marketplace.

The NYCT has a directory of translators and agencies.

Doing a quick search shows that there are 171 translators that translate around 35 different languages.

Translator Numbers in NYC - ATA

Now let's look at the American Translators Association directory.

The ATA directory lists 539 translator reported to live within a 50-mile radius of zip code 10004.

Now, raw numbers don't tell us the whole story.

In fact, what would be better to know is the concentration of translators in New York City.

Basically, what's the ratio between the number of translators and the population at large?

And is that number smaller or larger than other cities in the country?

Well, it's not exactly 100% sound, but here's what we can do.

Translator to Population Ratio

Let's look at the ATA numbers again.

Let's take the number of translators registered on the ATA website and divide that number by the population of New York City:

539 Translators in NYC/8,550,405 (Estimated 2015 population)

That gives us a ratio of 0.00006303794. Let's make that number easier to read by multiplying it by 10,000.

That gives us a rounded out ratio of 0.63.

Now, to see whether or not this concentration of translators in New York City is higher or lower than other cities in the U.S., let's do the same thing with top 10 most populated cities in the U.S. (according to the 2010 Census) and see where NYC ranks.

City (In Order of Population)Translators/Population Ratio
New York City, New York0.63
Los Angeles, California0.93
Chicago, Illinois0.75
Houston, Texas0.67
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania0.97
Phoenix, Arizona0.41
San Antonio, Texas0.23
San Diego, California0.98
Dallas, Texas0.85
San Jose, California2.61

If we take the numbers at face value, after the calculations, the order of the top ten cities in the U.S. by population in terms of the number of translators relative to the size of the city is as follows:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. San Diego, CA
  3. Philadelphia, PA
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Dallas, TX
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. Houston, TX
  8. New York City, NY
  9. Phoenix, AZ
  10. San Antonio, TX

Now, before you move off to San Antonio because they have the lowest number of translators per population, or decide to head to San Jose because that city has the highest number of translators per population, remember that this is just one measure of concentration of translators in a certain location.

The way I measured was to take a random zipcode from the city, plug it into the ATA translator search database, and search on the number of translators within a 50-mile radius of that zip code.

Most of these cities are much larger than 50 square miles.

Some of them have populations that are very spread out (think San Antonio or Dallas), with others, like New York City, have populations that are much more tightly concentrated.

But regardless, the data does tell us that different cities have very different concentrations of freelance translators among the general population. This should very much be considered if you're thinking about becoming a freelance translator in New York City (or any of the other top ten cities as well).

NYC Cost of Living

No article on living and working in New York City as a translator (in-house or freelance) would be complete without a discussion of cost of living.

Because while you might think you can earn a good salary as a translator, it does you no good if you have to spend it all on rent and can't afford to buy food for yourself or your family.

I'm not going to rehash what other people have written about New York City in terms of what it costs to live there.

If you're really curious about it, then do a search on Google for cost of living in NYC and you'll get more than you asked for.

What I would like to do, though is to at least provide you a snapshot of what you would have to deal with if you chose to live in NYC as an in-house or freelance translator.

And here's the snapshot (or the only two stats you really need to know).

Top five most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living:

  1. Zurich, Switzerland
  2. Grand Cayman, Grand Cayman Islands
  3. New York City, United States
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. San Francisco, United States

Top five most expensive cities in the United States:

  1. New York City, New York
  2. San Francisco, California
  3. Washington, DC
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. San Jose, California

This should tell you that New York City is not a great place to live if you want economic freedom as a translator.

You will never make enough here as a translator to make it worth your while. This is especially true for a freelance translator.

The biggest perk about being a freelance translator is that you can live anywhere. You can live anywhere in the world that you want but still get work from anywhere.

You can even find translation jobs in NYC while living in Thailand!

Conclusion

Don't set yourself up for failure by moving to New York City to be a translator.

You might be able to make it work if you find an in-house position as a translator, live outside the city and commute in, you have a spouse that also makes a good living, and you have no children.

But if you lack any of those requirements, trying to survive in the city will be a nightmare.

Even more so for a freelance translator. Find somewhere more economic to live and then you don't have to struggle so much to find as many translation jobs or work as many hours.

You still get the perks of being a translator but don't have to deal with the craziness of living in one of the most expensive places on the entire planet.

Until next time.

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