Certification and Other Credentials for Interpreters and Translators
In the U.S., interpreter certification is earned through testing. Frequently, to become certified the candidate must pass both a written and an oral performance test.
The table below indicates which certifications are available for which languages. Following that, you’ll find information about the certifications and other credentials which may be available both for interpreters whose languages are listed as well as for interpreters whose languages are not listed in the table.
|Language||Federal Court||State Court||NY State Court||CCHI (medical)||NBCMI (medical)||ATA (translation to/from English)|
|Chinese||from (Trad. or Simplified)|
|as of 5/2019||as of 10/2020||as of 10/2020||as of 10/2020||as of 10/2020|
Information about Certifications
Federal Courts: U.S. federal courts certify only Spanish/English interpreters through a combination of written and performance tests. In the past, Navajo/English and Haitian Creole/English court certification was also offered by the federal courts, though they no longer are. Learn about federal court interpreter certification. See below for information on how the federal courts credential interpreters for other languages.
State Courts: Most state courts draw on a common pool of interpreter tests to certify their interpreters. These tests are housed in the National Center for State Courts and are overseen by the Council of Language Access Coordinators (CLAC--formerly the Consortium for Language Access). To learn about your state’s specific requirements, we recommend that you google “[your state] court interpreter certification program” or search this map of state court certification programs. Some state court certification resources include:
- Written Exam Overview for Candidates
- Oral Exam Overview for Candidates
- Common Oral Interpreting Exam Performance Deficiencies
See below for information on how the state courts credential interpreters for languages with no performance test.
New York State Courts: Although New York is a member of CLAC, it continues to use tests it had developed previously. Learn about New York’s certification tests.
CCHI: The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) offers one of two national certifications for medical interpreters in the languages listed. They also offer a “language neutral” certification for all other languages called the CoreCHI.
NBCMI: The National Board for the Certification of Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) offers one of two national certifications for medical interpreters in the language listed. They also offer a “language neutral” certification for all other languages called the CMI-Hub
The ATA: American Translators Association (ATA) offers national certification for translators. For most (but not all) languages they test, there is a test for each direction of translation, as indicated in the table above. The ATA separates its test into tests translating from English into another language and tests translating to English from another language. In a few cases, there is only a test in one direction. Learn about the ATA’s certification tests.
Information about Other Credentials
Federal and State Courts: Federal and State courts have mechanisms to qualify interpreters for whose languages have not language-specific certification test. Federal courts have three classifications: “certified,” “professionally qualified,” and “language skilled.” Each category has its own requirements. State courts vary in how they categorize interpreters whose languages do not have a specific test. For example, California has “certified,” “registered,” and “provisionally qualified” interpreters. To learn about your state’s specific requirements, we recommend that you google “[your state] court interpreter certification program” or search this map of state court certification programs.
U.S. State Department: Although test-based, the U.S. State Department credential is not a certification as such. It is not intended to demonstrate an interpreter’s level of proficiency, but rather to qualify an interpreter or translator to work for the State Department on a freelance basis. The State Department has three levels of interpreter: liaison, seminar, and conference. Learn about the U.S. State Department’s interpreter and translator credential.
United Nations: As with the State Department, the U.N. tests “language professionals” to qualify them to work for the U.N. and not as a certification per se. Learn about the United Nation’s testing process.
International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC): AIIC is a professional organization for conference interpreters. Membership in AIIC requires a multi-step process to establish the candidate’s ability. As they put it, “AIIC effectively requires applicants to pass the workplace ‘test’, emphasis being placed on performance in real conference interpreting settings.” Learn about AIIC and its membership process.
Learn about TAALS and its membership process, As with AIIC, TAALS is a professional organization for conference interpreters and translators. Membership in TAALS requires a multi-step process to establish the candidate’s ability. As they put it, “Membership in TAALS implies a high standard of performance.” The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS):