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Poll: How do translators' rates compare with professionals' with a similar level of education?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 22:17
SITE STAFF
May 17, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How do translators' rates compare with professionals' with a similar level of education?".

This poll was originally submitted by Friedrich "Tom" Reinold. View the poll results »



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Chun Un  Identity Verified
Macau
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I don't know. May 17, 2012

People with a similar level of education may have very different career paths. I suppose other than doctors, lawyers or bankers it is hard to predict someone's income according to their level of education. There are plenty of PhDs who can't even find a job!

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Captain Haddock
India
Local time: 10:47
English to French
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its higher May 17, 2012

generally its higher

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Phoebe Indetzki  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:17
German to English
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Surely this varies from translator to translator? May 17, 2012

It's not only a case of what you charge per word - but how many words you can translate per hour! And that seems to vary hugely from translator to translator. Thus, even if two translators charge the same rate per word, one could still be earning twice as much as the other per hour.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
We can have any level of education May 17, 2012

I've been in the professional world for almost 40 years now. Going to uni wasn't quite as common in those days, believe me. So I left school and started working my way up the ladder. That doesn't mean my rates are, or should be, necessarily lower than a fellow translator's who has a PhD. If I do as good a job, I deserve as much in return.

How those rates compare with professionals providing other services, I have no idea. Certainly most lawyers, certified accountants and doctors are likely to earn more. But website developers, programmers, writers etc probably have very varied rates, like us.

Sheila


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 07:17
German to English
+ ...
I actually don't know what May 17, 2012

a translator's "level of education" is. If I look at mine, (BA in French and Law, MA in App, Linguistics) I suspect most of my equivalents are somewhere in the world of English language teaching, and probably earnign around the same as me.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:17
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Haven't a clue ... May 17, 2012

... how to answer this poll. It's like comparing apples and pears.

There's a great deal of variance even in other professions that require heavy use of the grey matter. Having a similarly high level of "formal" education per se is not directly proportionate to income. Just because we are in the knowledge business, it does not necessarily follow that we will be earning a lot because we know a lot.

It's a question of business acumen. A good example to quote would be Richard Branson. He had no formal education beyond the age of 16. But look where that got him. At least he earnt my respect!


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:17
English to French
+ ...
High specialization doesn't sell well May 17, 2012

I've been working over 30 years as a software engineer and hold different diplomas, including a PhD.
I've turned to translation because I loved that, and with the idea that my IT expertise would sell well.
Actually, it's not the case. The probem is, most of my counterparts have not enough IT experience to see the difference... Most difficult IT documents are going to rather under-qualified translators (just because they are cheaper).
I'm slowly climbing the ladder, anyway, and have improved my rates, not because of my specialty, but because I translate well.
My various diplomas (Physics, Math, IT, Statistics) help me sometimes, but they don't add a dime to my invoices, imho.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't know /Other May 17, 2012

Yet again, I'm glad to see that everyone else has answered for me.

Some translators struggle more than others, some offer different services at varying rates, in different countries and economic situations etc etc. I may have an hourly rate that sounds good, but not work a 40 -hour week...

So I don't really know, nor do I feel the need to - the grass is always greener etc etc.

All I know is that I can pay my way, stay out of debt and don't have quite the same burden of responsibility that a doctor has when operating or a lawyer when litigating, although occasionally (if I'm lucky!) my income might equal theirs.


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Maria Drangel  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:17
Member (2007)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Much lower... May 17, 2012

My own experience is that I earn less than half now, when I work about 55 hours per week as a translator than what I did 7 years ago, when I was working with an analytical function at the EU. Then I was even working slightly fewer hours than what I do now and I also had generous paid leave and several perks.

Still, I think the freedom of managing my own calender and the possibility of chosing my clients is well worth it.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:17
French to English
Agreed May 17, 2012

Chun Un wrote:

People with a similar level of education may have very different career paths. I suppose other than doctors, lawyers or bankers it is hard to predict someone's income according to their level of education. There are plenty of PhDs who can't even find a job!


Sums it up rather efficiently.

I have never equalled what I was earning when training as a solicitor, one of those professions where you can establish average (minimum) income. Again, as you progress through the liberal professions, income tends to icnrease but it depends on so many things, not least of which is choices made... infinite.


[Edited at 2012-05-17 12:19 GMT]


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Isabelle F. BRUCHER  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 07:17
English to French
+ ...
Well, the question is about rates strictly speaking, May 17, 2012

so I answered >20% lower.

A striking example is lawyers, who ask for 90-150 EUR per hour, I even know one who asks for 330 EUR per hour:

150 € base rate per hour + 50 € per hour in case of an emergency (week-end/evening work) = 200 € base rate for emergencies, + 50% reward if case was won fully = 300 € base rate if emergency was won fully, + 10% administration costs over the whole thing = 330 € per hour !!

When I think a translator who gets work via an intermediary gets around 20-25 (or 30?) € per hour, our rates are ridiculous.

Now, of course, there are lawyers' offices that go bankrupt and translators who make it, with much less stress than a lawyer, which results in less medical expenses in the long term... But the question was about rates, not income, nor net revenues, nor quality of life and medical expenses...


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:17
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
20 % lower May 17, 2012

Maria Drangel wrote:

My own experience is that I earn less than half now, when I work about 55 hours per week as a translator than what I did 7 years ago, when I was working with an analytical function at the EU. Then I was even working slightly fewer hours than what I do now and I also had generous paid leave and several perks.

Still, I think the freedom of managing my own calender and the possibility of chosing my clients is well worth it.


Today's rates can hardly be compared to what I've earned as an in-house translator.
However, the rate depends also on one's negotiation abilities and which clients we accept.

Not taking some of the ridiculously (or insulting?) job offers into consideration, and based on personal experience, translation rates are about 20 % lower than those of people with the same educational background.


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xxxchristela
This is a nonsense question May 17, 2012

for a linguist.
One of my acquintances took over the kitchen table agency of his father and complains now that he doesn't earn the same income - which has nothing to do with the 1/2 of the genes they have in common, but everything with his father's career path, and his own absolute lack in this matter.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 07:17
German to English
+ ...
Unfair comparison May 17, 2012

The comparison with a lawyer is unfair. The lawyer will, out of his € 100 an hour, probably have to pay the rent for an office in an expensive part of town, he will have to pay at least one secretary and possibly a paralegal assistant as well. Sure, some lawyers probably make a packet, but I don't think the average lawyer earns a huge amount.

As to working for the EU, I think we all know that a job with the EU provides a high pay level and excellent perks, but again is no criterion to measure translators against.


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