Employed Translators’ Annual Income EUR 47,479 in Germany, Survey Reveals

Germany’s BDÜ (Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators) published the results of its salary survey on May 21, 2016. The survey was conducted in 2015 and asked for full-year 2014 salary information from translators and interpreters, who were employed under contracts that required social security contributions (a widely used category in Germany).

A total of 184 professionals responded to the survey: 77% of respondents were between ages 20 and 40, 97% have university degrees, 25% were employed in the public, and 76% in the private sector.

The overwhelming majority at 74% are translators. Only 15% of respondents work in a management capacity; more than 70% work full time.

So what is the annual income of a translator or interpreter in Germany? The survey said EUR 54,050 if employed in the public sector and EUR 45,351 if in the private sector.

That is well above the EUR 32,643 national average for employees in Germany as a whole but less than half of the USD 140,000 that Switzerland’s lucky few federal government translators take home just south of the border.

There is a gender gap, with male linguists making EUR 49,056, while their female colleagues earn EUR 47,266 per year. Persistent academic studies paid off for the nine respondents holding a doctorate with annual pay averaging EUR 74,285.

Location matters. Translator income in the state of Hessen is nearly twice that in Sachsen

The survey also looked at overtime, which most Germans track closely and expect their employers to compensate in full. Of the 54% who said they regularly worked overtime, 74% said they received time off in exchange. Only 22% were compensated in cash.

What is true in real estate seems to apply to translation and interpretation pay as well: it’s all about location, location, location. While the annual income in the wealthy state of Hessen averaged EUR 53,328, language professionals in the eastern state of Sachsen had to make do with about half that at EUR 27,425.

Finally, in terms of industry sectors, translators looking to maximise income should seek employment in the car industry, which pays EUR 62,852 on average. The pharmaceutical industry (EUR 56,579) as well as law and accounting firms (EUR 50,803) also pay relatively well.

Income in healthcare is EUR 47,908, while the machine manufacturing industry posted EUR 46,561, both close to the overall average of EUR 47,479. Interestingly, the IT sector trailed all other sectors with an annual pay of EUR 41,269 bar two vaguely defined catchall categories.