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Certified Spanish Interpreter Degree and Certification Facts

Learn about Spanish interpreter degrees and certificate programs and certification options, including areas of specialization that you can choose from. Keep reading to find out more.

What Types of Spanish Interpreter Programs Are Available?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), although there are a variety of career paths to become an interpreter, many employers prefer that you have a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). A certificate or associate's degree program can get you started and provide you with some of the coursework you'll need for your bachelor's degree.

You can find community Spanish interpreter certificate and associate's degree programs at community colleges or university extension departments. Some schools also offer specialized programs in medical, legal or court interpreting. Online programs can be found at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels.

Degree LevelsCertificate, associate's, and bachelor's
Certificate & Associate's Study TopicsHealthcare terminology, phonetics, legal Spanish, note-taking techniques, Spanish for the workplace
Bachelor's Study TopicsCommercial Spanish, intercultural communication, advanced Spanish grammar, composition, introductory translation
CertificationCertification is not obligatory but can make you more employable
Median Salary (2018)$49,930 (for interpreters and translators)*
Job Outlook (2016-26)18% growth (for all interpreters and translators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What are Certificate and Associate's Degree Programs Like?

Certificate programs in Spanish/English interpretation and translation generally take less time to complete than a degree, and are designed to teach you the theory and practice of interpretation and translation, which includes consecutive interpretation, sight translation and simultaneous interpretation. Programs for Spanish/English medical interpreters generally include courses in healthcare terminology, cultural aspects of healthcare and ethics in medical interpreting. Legal or court Spanish/English interpretation certificate programs focus on specialized terminology and vocabulary building, as well as note-taking techniques and public speaking.

Community Spanish interpreter associate's degree programs offer coursework devoted to Spanish speaking and writing, as well as cultural immersion. Specific courses may include Spanish phonetics, Spanish conversation and Spanish for the workplace. You'll also take general courses in reading, grammar, composition and mathematics. Although such programs are generally designed to prepare you to become a Spanish/English interpreter, you also generally take introductory courses in translation.

What Will I Learn in a Bachelor's Degree Program?

Bachelor's degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Spanish with a translation and interpretation specialization, can provide you with basic speaking and interpretation skills. You will also cover topics like commercial Spanish, intercultural communication and advanced Spanish grammar. In order to meet the admission requirements for a bachelor's degree program, you will need to demonstrate a proficiency in Spanish and English, which may be done by an examination or completing prerequisite coursework.

Do I Need Certification?

The BLS notes that interpreters and translators are not generally required to have professional certification; however, seeking voluntary certification can be helpful in finding a job. If you are considering employment with the federal government, you must prove competency through three exams administered by the U.S. Department of State, but these do not make you a certified interpreter.

If you would like to work as a Spanish legal interpreter in the federal courts, you can become a certified interpreter through the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE) program, which attests to the competency of court-appointed interpreters for defendants in federal courts, as required by federal law (www.ncsc.org). Federal certification as a Spanish interpreter requires you to take oral and written exams in both English and Spanish.

State and local courts may certify you as a Spanish interpreter with an internal process or through the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), which offers the National Judiciary Interpreter and Translator Certification (www.najit.org).