A Complete Guide on How to Become a Qualified Medical Translator

Language, Medical, Medical Document Translations, Medical Translation Services

So you’re considering the profession of a Qualified Medical Translator?

That’s brilliant. As medical translation/interpretation is a very lucrative opportunity in the economy of the day.

Impervious immigration into North America has led to an increase in individuals within the health care system. Individuals who are unable to understand or speak English. For this reason, the role of a medical translator and interpreter is one that requires training and definitive comprehension.

Have you wondered what YOU need to do/know to become a certified medical translator?

Keep reading to find out exactly how to acquire the accredited status.

On the Basis of Eligibility

As you would think – the first step into becoming a certified medical translator is to be eligible. 

However, before we determine that – let’s specify and apprehend the lack of difference between an interpreter and translator in the field. The role of a certified medical translator is not really a thing. However, a certified medical interpreter is probably what you are looking for.

The latter consists of written translation work, as well – but in general, is more qualified to perform in a medical field. A medical translator is usually a temp employee, performing on a freelancing or contract basis.

Beyond this, there are no national certifications for translators, currently known of.

So to become a medical translator/interpreter – you must make sure you are eligible. There are two national certifications for a medical translator/interpreter working in the healthcare industry. The requirements are different for each. 

A good place to start is to assess and determine your own competency. As language ability does not qualify you automatically. 

Here are some important criteria:

  • Message comprehension to conversion ability
  • Active concentrated listening skills
  • Coherent and clear speech projection
  • Understanding of slang and regionalism for languages used
  • Ability to identify a difference in meaning based on the dialect
  • Ability to communicate at all levels of formality
  • Comprehension of idioms and colloquialisms in working languages
  • Understanding of physiology and anatomy
  • Extensive understanding of terminology, pertinent to illness prevention, treatment, diagnosis, and management
  • Vocabulary development in relation to the provision of health care
  • Compression of key concepts, such as informed consent, patient rights, confidentiality, etc

Now that you know which skills to develop, we can move on to the national certification criteria.

Also, here are 10 things we’ve learned in 40+ years in the healthcare translation industry.

The National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)

In order to determine your eligibility, you have to partake in an examination process, which requires you to be:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Possess a U.S GED or high school diploma
  • Minimum of 40 hours for medical interpreting training
  • Present oral proficiency in English by providing: accredited degrees, diplomas, TOEFL, ELPT, MELAB, ECPE, FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS. Provided within the U.S or another English speaking country
  • Have to possess one of the following: bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D., high school diploma, 24+ college credit hours for the target language, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages oral exam (Advanced Mid-Level)

The NBCMI can only provide certification in Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. If you are looking for another language combination, you should explore the next certification provided by the CCHI.

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

As mentioned above, the CCHI provides certifications for lesser-used languages, after you pass a written exam. 

The requirements for application, go as follows:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Possess a GED or high school diploma
  • Acquire at least 40 hours of medical interpreting training (academic or non-academic)
  • Present linguistic proficiency in English and any other languages you seek to become certified in

There is more than one way to present your proficiency. So it is recommended you contact the CCHI for their examination handbook, which provides such information.

To become a certified medical translator/interpreter – you have to take the CoreCHI exam. It is a computer-based exam of 100 questions (multiple-choice), which covers the basics of healthcare translation and interpretation. 

Depending on the target language, you might have to pursue an oral exam in English and the primary transit.

    Where to Acquire Medical Translator/Interpreter Training?

    As soon as you have met the language requirements, you can pursue a 40-hour program with an accredited medical translator/interpreter training center.

    The program will help you understand the role and responsibilities associated with the position. After you take the training class, you can continue towards the credentialing exams. 

    For factual and updated information on the exam requirements, you can find this information on the official websites of the NBCMI and the CCHI

    Obtaining the certification itself is not an easy process, but it does end up satisfying with a long-lasting and gainful career. If you fit all of the criteria and have a passion for the work, you will have a tremendous and fulfilling time both on the exam, and on work.

    Warning: Having a Certificate for Translator/Interpreter Training – Does Not Mean You Are a Certified Medical Translator/Interpreter

    Most universities and language training centers provide certificates of completion for passing a healthcare/medical translator and interpreter training course.

    The certificate might seem like the real deal, but it is only a certificate of completion. 

    It does not certify you as a medical translator/interpreter. It can help with your resume, but it should not be confused with an actual certification.

    Know this and avoid any embarrassment, when you try to apply for a position with a piece of paper.

    How Do I Renew My Certification?

    Like most certified careers, you are required to renew your certification after a period of time.

    If you have chosen to become certified via the CCHI, you have to pursue 16 hours of continued education every 2 years. Equal to 32 hours every 4 years.

    If you have chosen to become certified with the NBCMI, you have to pursue 30 hours of active training every 5 years.

    For more detailed information, visit the official websites or consult with management.

    Become the Medical Translator/Interpreter the World Needs Today

    Now that we have covered everything you need to know, in order to pursue a gainful career, as a medical translator/interpreter. You are well on your way to securing your position, as a valuable member of society.

    You will come to realize that despite all of the hurdles to becoming certified – in the end, it isn’t that difficult. If you lack competency, it can be developed. If you have a passion, you can fulfill it.

    If you are interested in pursuing a career, as a life sciences translator/interpreter – check out our application page, and see if you fit the bill.