Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Certification of Interpreters in Health Care
What is certification?
Certification is a process by which a governmental, academic or professional organization attests to or guarantees that an individual is qualified to provide a particular service or perform in a particular area of practice. Certification involves formal assessment, using an instrument that has been tested for validity and reliability, so that the certifying body can be confident that the individuals it certifies have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job.
I have a certificate of completion from a training program. Am I certified?
No. This is a common confusion in the field. A certificate of completion simply shows that you finished a training program. Certification shows that the certifying body is guaranteeing that you are qualified: that you have demonstrated the knowledge and abilities that a scientifically-designed process has shown to be necessary to provide a service. While a certificate of completion is certainly a valuable document to prove your training, it is not the same as a certification. Think of it as the difference between a doctor who has graduated from medical school and one who has passed her Board exams.
Is national certification available for healthcare interpreters?
Yes, there are several options, depending on the working language pair.
Interpreters for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are certified through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). RID offers a variety of credentials under its generalist category. Specialist credentials are also offered in legal interpreting and interpreting for the performing arts. At this time, RID does not offer a specialist credential in healthcare interpreting. For more information, see RID’s website.
At this time, spoken language interpreters can choose between two national certification processes. The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care has officially endorsed the certification process of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI).
How do I know which process I should use?
To evaluate a certification process, or to compare two processes, you will want to ask questions such as the following:
Is certification the only way to guarantee the quality of an interpreter?
No. Certification is only one way to identify if an interpreter is qualified. Other ways include:
Why should I bother with certification?
If you are an interpreter, certification is one way to prove your skill level to potential employers and to colleagues on the healthcare team. It puts you on the level with other healthcare professionals, all of which must be credentialed in some way.
If you hire interpreters, certification is one well-recognized means of assuring that an interpreter has a certain level of knowledge and skills.