How to Become a Certified Medical Interpreter

A Medical interpreter can have a gainful career in today’s world. Immigration into North America has led to a growing number of individuals seeking health care, but unable to speak or understand English. For this reason, there’s a need for certified medical interpreters who are properly trained in both English and their target language, as well as in the field of medical interpreting.

Ever wonder what you need to become a certified medical interpreter? Well, the first step to get your national certification is to make sure you are eligible. There are two national organization that certify interpreter show wish to work in health care. The requirements to apply are a little different from one to the other, so let’s explore their criteria.

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

The requirements to apply for national certification as a healthcare interpreter through CCHI are:

  • Be at least 18 years old

  • Have at least a U.S. high school diploma (or GED) or its equivalent from another country

  • Complete a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreting training (academic or non-academic program)

  • Possess linguistic proficiency in English and the primary language for which you are seeking certification.

  • Show proof of proficiency by submitting documentation.

There are many ways in which you can show proof of your language proficiency in the languages you speak, such as school transcripts, diplomas, test scores, or letters of attestation from an employer, professor, or school. Please consult CCHI’s candidate’s Examination Handbook for more detailed information.

To become a healthcare interpreter through CCHI, you must first take and pass the CoreCHI exam. This is a computer-based exam with 100 multiple-choice questions – all in English – covering the basics of healthcare interpreting. If your target language is Arabic, Mandarin, or Spanish, you will also take an oral examination in English and your target language where your bilingual and interpreting skills will be evaluated.

The National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters

To be eligible to take the examination for a medical interpreter certification through The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters, you must:

  • Be the minimum age of 18 years old.

  • Proof of at least a U.S. high school diploma (or GED).

  • Successful completion of at least 40 hours of medical interpreting training.

  • Demonstrate oral proficiency in English with any of the following: high school, diploma, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, Ph.D., or any other higher education degree awarded in a .U.S. university or any other English-speaking country. They also accept a passing score in any of the following tests: TOEFL, ELPT, MELAB, ECPE, FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS.

  • To show linguistic proficiency in the primary language for which you are seeking certification, you should have one of the following: bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D., or any other degree from an institution of higher education where the language is spoken. They also accept a high school diploma from the country where the target language is spoken, 24+ semester college credit hours of the target language, and ACTFL Oral Exams (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages): Advanced Mid-Level.

  • You can also show adequate proficiency by scoring a Level ILR2+ or higher on the test administered by the language testing company named Parrot. This test score is also approved by CCHI.

The only languages that the National Board certifies are Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese. If you speak a different language, you should take a look at the Core Certification that CCHI offers to interpreters of languages of lesser diffusion. After passing their written exam, also called the Core Exam, you will granted the credential of Core Certified Healthcare Interpreter.

Where to Get Training as Medical Interpreter?

Once you’ve met the basic language requirements,  you should find a reputable 40-hour program for your medical interpreter training. This training program will teach you the ins and outs of medical interpreting, helping you to understand what your role and responsibilities will be as a medical interpreter.  After you have taken your medical interpreter training course, you will be ready for the credentialing exams. The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters offers one credential and requires you to take both an oral and a written exam and pass both.

For more information on the requirements to become a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) visit their website. (link above) or download the NBCMI Candidate handbook.

Obtaining your certification as a medical interpreter is a rigorous process, but it leads to a  rewarding career. If you have all of the basic prerequisites and a passion for interpreting and helping people with their health care needs, we encourage you to enroll in one of our 40-hour programs for Spanish interpreters today. For interpreters of other languages, we offer you the Non-Language-Specific course.

Renewal of Your Certification

Like in many other careers, you will have to renew your certification after a certain period of time. If you chose to get certified by CCHI, you would have to comply with 16 hours of continuing education every two years, a total of 32 hours every four years. You can find detailed information about the criteria you have to meet for those hours on CCHI’s website. On the other hand, if you decide to get certified by the National Board, you will have to comply with 30 hours of training every five years. The courses you take have to meet certain criteria to be accepted. We provide you with more information about continuing education on this link: CEUs for Medical Interpreters.

These are the basic steps to get certified as a medical interpreter. We recommend you take a minute to browse the CCHI and NBCMI websites for more specific information. Before contacting any of these organization with questions, please dive into their respective candidates’ handbook, links above, to learn more. Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to call us at 818-465-8425

Last update: 3/2/22

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