Certification: What is it? How does an interpreter get it?

Certification: What is it? How does an interpreter get it?

As with in any field, language services offers ways to differentiate oneself from colleagues. Becoming certified allows interpreters to document the skills and knowledge that allow them to perform effectively in the profession. Within interpretation, however, there are a range of points of view that surround certification. Some believe a college degree is necessary to truly be a professional interpreter, while others argue in favor of natural ability and experience in the field. All agree that certification can be a way of recognizing a level of proficiency in both the art and science of language service and, therefore, certification is available to interpreters of all backgrounds.

Certification groups aim to offer an educational program that increases technical competence, creates incentives to continue professional development, and provides a standard identifying individuals who have demonstrated a thorough knowledge of interpretive principles, practices, and skills. It is not necessary to attain certification to get a job in language services; however, many agencies and organizations are beginning to become aware of the additional worth of certification, and some agencies now require their employees or contractors to be certified.


Certification offers benefits. It helps interpreters to maintain skills and knowledge in the field because consistent re-certification requires consistent mastery. This also increases the need to continue learning and developing one's professional development. Certification can improve employment opportunities and pay scales, by making a certified interpreter more competitive in the market. Above all, it helps interpreters to cultivate a professional self-image and benefits the people using the language services provided by a certified interpreter.

There are many ways to certify. There are field-specific certifications like those for medical and court interpreting, as well as state and federal-level offerings. For example, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters both offer a certification program. Likewise, the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination and the State Interpreter certification are both available to court interpreters. The National Association for Interpretation also offers a certification. There are many additional certification programs at the national, state, and local level.


Regardless of the individual certification being garnered, the process is often the same. Qualifications to pursue certification rely upon citizenship, age, and number of hours in the field through experience, schooling, or a combination of these things. An interpreter may need to join an organization in order to access that group's certification process. In this case, an interpreter should be prepared to pay an annual membership fee, the cost of the certification test, and any fees associated with training. Membership and certification fees will become an ongoing expense needed to remain current. The certification test itself generally consists of a written exam that must be passed before moving onto an oral assessment. Both sections must be passed in order to be certified and the re-testing process varies by organization.

Ablio certifies and accredits its interpreters after a comprehensive evaluation process and a 20 minute oral test, to ensure top notch quality service to the customers it serves.

Certification is one way to demonstrate a commitment to the profession, but there is no discipline-wide certification process. Therefore, it can be difficult to decide which type to pursue. Getting involved with an agency like Ablio can provide you with the support, on-going training, and rigorous standards that certification provides without the confusion. If you choose to pursue a certification, increasing your connections in language services will likely help you to better understand the path that works for others in your specific market.

Versione italiana

Photo by Alberto G, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.