Is becoming an interpreter right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do interpreters do?

Still unsure if becoming an interpreter is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an interpreter or another similar career!

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How to become an Interpreter

Becoming an interpreter involves a combination of education, skill development, and practical experience. Here are the steps to pursue a career in interpreting:

  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree: While not always mandatory, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as foreign languages and literatures, linguistics, translation, or a specialized area (like healthcare or law) can provide a strong foundation. Achieve a high level of proficiency in at least two languages, as native or near-native fluency is typically required.
  • Formal Training: Enroll in interpreter training programs or courses offered by universities, colleges, or specialized language institutions. These programs often cover interpretation techniques, ethics, and field-specific terminology. Regular practice, including language exchange and volunteer opportunities, helps hone these skills.
  • Internships and Volunteering: Gain practical experience through internships or volunteer opportunities in hospitals, courts, and community organizations. Entry-level positions, such as freelance or in-house interpreting roles, provide valuable hands-on experience to build your career.
  • Certification Programs: Depending on your area of specialization, obtain relevant certifications such as Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI), Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI), Federal Court Interpreter Certification, or state-specific court certifications. These credentials enhance credibility and job prospects.
  • Membership: Join professional organizations like the American Translators Association (ATA), National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), or International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA). These organizations offer resources, networking opportunities, and professional development.
  • Continuous Education: Stay updated with changes in language, new terminology, and advances in interpretation technology through workshops, seminars, and online courses. Continuous education is crucial for maintaining proficiency and adapting to industry trends.
  • Networking: Attend industry conferences, join online forums, and participate in local language groups. Networking can lead to job opportunities and collaborations, helping you build connections within the interpreting community.
  • Job Search: Look for interpreting positions on job boards, company websites, and through your professional network. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills, experience, and certifications, making you a competitive candidate.
  • Area of Specialization: Consider specializing in a particular field such as medical, legal, or conference interpreting. Specialization enhances your expertise and increases job opportunities, making you a sought-after professional in your chosen field.

Obtaining the following certifications can enhance your credibility, demonstrate your expertise, and open up more job opportunities in the field of interpreting.

  • Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI) (offered by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)): This certification validates the skills and knowledge required for medical interpreters. It covers medical terminology, ethics, and standards of practice, ensuring interpreters can effectively communicate in healthcare settings.
  • Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) (provided by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)): The CMI certification focuses on medical terminology, cultural competence, and interpreting skills. It ensures that interpreters working in medical environments have the necessary expertise to facilitate accurate and sensitive communication between healthcare providers and patients.
  • Federal Court Interpreter Certification (administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts): This certification is designed for interpreters working in federal courts. It requires passing a rigorous examination that tests language proficiency, legal terminology, and interpreting skills in courtroom settings.
  • State Court Certification (offered by individual state judicial systems): Many states have their own certification programs for court interpreters. These certifications typically involve passing a written exam, oral proficiency tests, and demonstrating knowledge of legal terminology and court procedures specific to the state.
  • American Translators Association (ATA) Certification (provided by the American Translators Association): While primarily for translators, ATA certification is also valuable for interpreters. It tests language proficiency and subject matter expertise, offering credentials in various language pairs and specializations.
  • National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) Certification (offered by NAJIT): This certification focuses on legal and judiciary interpreting, covering courtroom procedures, legal terminology, and ethical standards. It ensures interpreters can accurately and effectively perform in legal environments.
  • Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Certification (provided by RID): This certification is for sign language interpreters and includes multiple levels, such as the National Interpreter Certification (NIC). It evaluates proficiency in American Sign Language (ASL), interpreting skills, and ethical practices.
  • International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) Certification (offered by IMIA): The Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) credential focuses on medical interpreting, including medical terminology, cultural competence, and interpreting techniques. It ensures interpreters are prepared for the complexities of medical environments.
  • Translation and Interpretation Certification Programs (various universities and language institutions): Many institutions offer certification programs in translation and interpretation. These programs provide comprehensive training in language skills, interpreting techniques, and specialized terminology, culminating in a recognized certification.