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Online Interpreter Certification

Review the process for becoming certified as an interpreter. Learn about certification options, and find out about online training options available to you. Examine the job outlook for professional interpreters.

What Certifications Are Available for Interpreters?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a universal certification for interpreters does not exist; however, certifications are available in specialty areas from the government and organizations such as the American Translators Association, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and the U.S. State Department. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation certifications can also be found through the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).

It is important to note that interpretation certifications are not the same as translation certifications. Interpretation converts spoken words, either simultaneously or consecutively, while translation converts written words.

Certifications Available American Translators Association, The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, American Sign Language interpretation
Online Availability Not typical
Certification Preparation Online materials, study guides, practice exams, interpreter certification courses
Median Salary (2018)$49,930 (for interpreters and translators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 18% increase (for interpreters and translators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Can I Earn Certification Online?

You can't typically earn certification online, since it often requires taking both verbal and written exams. For instance, the State Interpreter Certification awarded by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) requires applicants to attend a basic orientation workshop and pass written and oral exams. Additional requirements vary by state and may include attending a 2-day workshop, passing an additional federal certification exam and passing a records check. The U.S. Courts offers three levels of interpreter certifications; these also require passing both oral and written exams.

Can I Prepare for Certification Online?

Certifying organizations often offer training materials online. The NCSC has study guides, practice exams, dictionaries and other reference materials on its website. Some colleges and universities also offer online certificate or degree program in interpretation that can help to prepare you for certification exams. For example, a 2-year certificate program for educational interpreters can teach you how to interpret for hearing or visually impaired children while taking classes in child psychology or human development. A 4-year interpreter training program in American Sign and visual languages can provide you with extended training and lead to a Bachelor of Science degree.

Additional online training options include multilingual medical interpreting programs that can help you facilitate communication between patients and providers. With an associate's degree or higher, you can pursue a specialized certificate program with an emphasis on interpreting in business, judiciary or human services environments.

What is the Employment Outlook?

The outlook is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the employment rate for interpreters and translators to increase 18% between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov), which is much faster than average. Growth in this profession is due largely to increasing globalization across major industries, like education, Internet retail, medicine and governments.