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National Medical & Healthcare Interpreter Certifications

certification healthcare interpreter medical May 09, 2023

We are glad to have you here with us! TransInterpreting provides preparation courses and continuing education to interpreters all over the world. Our goal is to see you succeed in the journey to become an excellent interpreter. Please read the following post thoroughly in order to gain some information regarding certification options & processes.

The following information provides an important general overview of the US national medical & healthcare interpreter examinations; refer to the official websites of the national interpreter certification bodies, the primary sources, for the most up-to-date information: NBCMI and CCHI.


The First Step

 The National Board of Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Commission for Certified Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) are the two major medical/healthcare interpreter accreditation bodies in the US. These two bodies certify interpreters who successfully pass their national medical/healthcare interpreting exams.

In order to become eligible to take these exams, you need to submit a specific list of documents. These may include proof of high school graduation or its equivalent, proof of language fluency for your second language, and a certificate of completion from an interpreter training program among others. The documents vary according to each interpreter accreditation body. However, all of them are used with the same purpose: they determine if a candidate has adequate language proficiency and professional interpreting skills.

Visit the links below to learn more about the full list of pre-requisites to be fulfilled in order to become eligible to take the exams:

The 60HR Signature Healthcare Interpreting Program from TransInterpreting prepares you to pass the NBCMI and CCHI national certification exams. Additionally,  it helps you satisfy the minimum of 40 hours of interpreter training required by both accreditation bodies.


The Exams

The NBCMI and CCHI accreditation exams are divided into written and oral components. The written component of the accreditation exams is language-neutral (i.e. in the English language), and it is available to all interpreters. However, the oral component is only available to some language pairs.

  • NBCMI Certification Exams
    1. Written Exam: language-neutral exam that all interpreters must pass before obtaining certification.
    2. Oral Exam: this exam is only available to Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese Interpreters. Pre-requisite: written exam.
  • CCHI Certification Exams
    1. CoreCHI: language-neutral exam that all interpreters must pass before obtaining certification.
    2. CHI: requires taking a CoreCHI written exam. This additional oral exam is only available to Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin interpreters. Pre-requisite: written exam.

Those interpreters who do not have an oral exam available to them will only have to pass the written component in order to become certified. This means interpreters who do have an oral exam available to them will have to pass this second component in order to achieve certification.


Making a Decision

The ability to obtain an interpreter certification depends on whether or not a candidate can gather all the required documents for an application. Therefore, we suggest all our students study the lists of prerequisites provided by each interpreter accreditation body before making any decision regarding their future path. The accreditation body with the easiest prerequisites to fulfill usually provides the fastest way to jump-start an interpreter's professional career.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • The CCHI written exam focuses on ethics while the NBCMI written exam puts more emphasis on medical terminology.
  • The NBCMI oral exam tests interpreters on two interpreting modalities: sight translation and consecutive interpreting.
  • The CCHI oral exam tests interpreters on three interpreting modalities: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting.
  • CCHI counts with an additional Spanish language accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA is a national governing body that oversees the quality of several professional accreditation programs in the United States.


Registering for the Exams

We recommend creating an online account with the interpreter accreditation body of choice as soon as possible. This will help you know in more detail what you need in order to apply for certification.

Click on one or both of the links below to register with CCHI or NBCMI. The registration process creates an online account that will be used to submit the application. Here is where the process of becoming a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) or a Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI) starts.


Certification Costs

The following is a list of some of the costs that come with obtaining a medical/healthcare interpreter certification:

  • CCHI:
    • $35 application fee (may be waived: please check the program’s website for the waiver prerequisites)
    • $175 CoreCHI exam fee
    • $275 CHI exam fee
  • NBCMI:
    • $35 registration fee 
    • $175 written exam fee
    • $275 oral exam fee