Medical Interpreters: Choosing the Right Certification for You

Regulatory changes at local and state levels, as well as publications by Health and Human Services and accrediting agencies are encouraging the documentation and skill verification of interpreters and bilingual personnel.   With this increased demand for testing, you may find yourself asking: Which certification is preferred by prospective employers? Which is more difficult? What are the costs?

If you find yourself asking these questions, you should begin by visiting the sites for each of the two nationally recognized organizations that offer certification for medical interpreters: the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). You may find one is a better option for you based on the following considerations.

Is the oral component of the test available for your language pair?

CCHI’s performance exam is currently available for Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic interpreters.

NBCMI’s oral exam is currently available for Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese interpreters.

Do I meet the prerequisites?

Both national certification exams have the same basic requirements which include a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreter training, a high school diploma or equivalent level of education, minimum age requirement of 18 years, and language proficiency in both English and the target language.

However, there are minor differences between organizations in process of proving your proficiency in either language that you should consider when selecting the certification that is right for you. Information on the approved methods for establishing your proficiency is available on page 4 NBCMI’s handbook and page 15 CCHI’s handbook.

Is there a testing location near me?

You can find the available testing locations on NBCMI’s website here and CCHI’s website here.

What is the cost?

Currently both NBCMI’s Certified Medical Interpret (CMI) and CCHI’s Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI) exam require the same investment including a $35 registration fee, $175 written exam fee, and $275 oral exam fee for a total investment of $485.

What competencies will be tested?

We congratulate all medical interpreters who are currently pursuing national certification and encourage them to download the handbook for each certification body and consider the information discussed above as well as the competencies tested to find the best fit.

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