Interpreter Training & Certification in California

Learn what skills you need to become an interpreter. Read about the degree and non-degree options available in California for training as an interpreter, and get to know the interpreter certification requirements in California. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Many interpreters have a bachelor's degree majoring in at least one language. In California, bachelor's degree programs specializing in interpreter training are very rare, but there are various institutions offering certificates and postgraduate programs. Read further to learn about the degree and other training options as well as the certification requirements to work as an interpreter in California.

*Interpretation refers to the spoken word whereas translation refers to the written word.

What Academic Programs Offer Training in Interpretation?

Many prospective interpreters move on to programs that specialize in interpreting after they've received a bachelor's degree. These include master's degrees that focus on specific aspects, such as court or medical interpretation. You don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree, as associate degrees and certificates in interpretation are also available.

Programs typically cover areas such as interpretation in legal, medical and business settings, as well as interpreting at international conferences; programs may prepare you for specific certification exams. Many of the programs include real-life interpretation practice and internships ranging from international settings like the United Nations to local placements like community hospitals.

Which Programs in California Specialize in Interpretation?

To become an interpreter, you have to be fluent in English and one or more other languages. Academic training is also available in California:

  • Laney College in Oakland has a Certificate in Legal and Community Interpreting.
  • Santa Ana College offers a Spanish / English Interpretation & Translation Certificate.
  • You can enroll in an Associate in Science Degree in Community Interpretation at Moreno Valley College.
  • Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey has a choice of two master's programs: a Master of Arts in Translation and Interpretation and a Master of Arts in Conference Interpretation.

What are the Certification Requirements for an Interpreter in California?

The USA has no general certification requirements for interpreters. California requires certification for its court interpreters for certain languages and registration for others. The exam requirements for certification and registration are different:

  • Certification is required for fifteen specific languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian. It involves a written exam and a bilingual interpreting exam.
  • Registration is required for all other languages. This involves a written exam and oral proficiency exams in English and the other language.

What Certifications are Available for Interpreters in California?

There are various voluntary certification options at the national level to show that you are proficient in a certain field:

  • You can become a Certified Medical Interpreter by passing a written and oral exam with the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.
  • To work as a Spanish/English interpreter in federal courts across the USA, you can sit the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination, consisting of a written and an oral phase.
  • Sign language interpreters can find several certification options through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, including the Certified Deaf Interpreter credential.

Should I Earn a Degree or Certificate in Interpretation?

Whether you go the degree route or the non-degree route will depend on what your career plans are. If you would like to work internationally by, for example, interpreting at global business conferences and political summits or in the tourism industry, then the degree route, preferably with more than two languages, is the way to go.

However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that growth of interpreter jobs should be much faster than average at 18% from 2016 to 2026, in part due to an increase in the Spanish-speaking population. There's a big demand for interpreters who specialize in the medical and legal fields, and a certificate that focuses on one or more of these specialties could be sufficient.

What Skills do I Need if I Want to Train as an Interpreter?

You have to be bilingual. In California, Spanish is the language most widely spoken after English, so a combination of these two languages would be very useful. Proficiency in a third language will give you more scope for international work.

To become an interpreter, you have to be able to speak clearly and you must have good listening skills. Because you may have to interpret between people of different cultures, cultural sensitivity will help to avoid misunderstandings.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Ashford University

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  • Colorado Christian University

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    Popular programs at Colorado Christian University:

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  • Liberty University

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    • Master

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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  • Riverside City College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Riverside
  • Moreno Valley College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Moreno Valley
  • Monterey Institute of International Studies

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Monterey
  • Southwestern College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Chula Vista
  • University of Iowa

    Campus Locations:

    • Iowa: Iowa City