How to Become a Certified Interpreter in the United States

How to Become a Certified Interpreter in the United States
4 min read
12 June 2023


Becoming a certified language interpreter in the United States can open up a world of opportunities in the field of language services. As language barriers continue to be overcome in various sectors, the demand for skilled interpreters has grown significantly. This article will guide you through the steps to become a certified interpreter in the US, highlighting the key requirements and pathways available.

Step 1: Determine Your Language Proficiency and Interpreting Skills The first step towards becoming a certified interpreter is to assess your language proficiency and interpreting skills. Fluency in at least two languages, including English, is crucial. Interpreting requires excellent listening, comprehension, and speaking skills. It's important to have a solid grasp of both the source and target languages, including their cultural nuances and industry-specific terminology.

Step 2: Obtain Relevant Education and Training While formal education is not always mandatory, it can greatly enhance your chances of becoming a certified interpreter. Many universities and community colleges offer certificate or degree programs in interpreting or translation. These programs provide essential theoretical knowledge, language-specific training, and practice in interpreting techniques. Alternatively, you can also seek specialized training programs and workshops offered by professional associations or language service providers.

Step 3: Gain Professional Experience Building practical experience is crucial to becoming a certified interpreter. Seek opportunities to work in language-related roles, such as volunteering at community events, hospitals, or legal clinics that require interpretation services. Consider joining interpreter associations or networks to connect with experienced professionals who can provide mentorship or job leads. Internships or freelance work can also help you gain valuable experience and expand your network within the industry.

Step 4: Choose a Certification Pathway In the United States, there is no single national certification for interpreters. However, several organizations offer certifications that are widely recognized and respected within the industry. The most prominent certification options include:

a. National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI): NBCMI offers the Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) credential, which focuses on medical interpreting skills. To qualify, candidates must meet specific education requirements and pass a written exam followed by a performance-based oral exam.

b. Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI): CCHI provides the Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI) credential, which evaluates general healthcare interpreting skills. Candidates need to meet specific eligibility requirements and pass a written exam followed by an oral exam.

c. Consortium for Language Access in the Courts (CLAC): CLAC offers the Court Interpreter Certification Examination, which certifies interpreters for legal settings. The exam typically consists of a written component and an oral exam.

Step 5: Prepare for Certification Exams Once you have chosen a certification pathway, it is essential to thoroughly prepare for the exams. Each certification body has its own requirements and examination format. Familiarize yourself with the exam content, practice interpreting in the target language, and review relevant terminology and ethics guidelines. Consider joining study groups, attending preparatory courses, or seeking guidance from experienced professionals to enhance your chances of success.

Step 6: Maintain Professional Development After becoming a certified interpreter, it is crucial to continue honing your skills and staying updated with industry developments. Join professional associations, attend conferences, and participate in continuing education programs to expand your knowledge and network. Ongoing professional development ensures that you provide the highest level of interpreting services and maintain your certification status.


Becoming a certified interpreter in the United States requires a combination of language line solution, training, experience, and certification. By following the outlined steps, individuals can lay a solid foundation for a successful career as a certified interpreter. Remember, the path may vary depending on the specific interpreting field you choose, such as medical, legal, or conference interpreting.

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Mickel 2
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