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National Medical & Healthcare Interpreter Certifications

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 blog thoroughly in order to gain some information regarding certification options & processes.

The following information may have changed since February 25th of 2019, but It still provides an important general overview of the US national medical & healthcare interpreter examinations; refer to the national interpreter certification programs’ websites (NBCMI & CCHI), the primary sources, for the most up to date information.

As previously mentioned, there are two professional accreditation bodies that are accepted nationwide: the National Board of Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Commission for Certified Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI). Both certify interpreters who have successfully passed their national medical/healthcare interpreter accreditation exams. Additionally, there are other medical/healthcare interpreter certification options; for instance, Washington’s Department of Social and Healthcare Services (DSHS) accredits interpreters at their state level. Nonetheless, national certifications are more viable since they are valid nationwide.

In order to make the certification process more convenient, it is important to carefully choose which accreditation requirement to fulfill. Listed below are the prerequisites that must be met and reviewed before being eligible for an exam.

  • Prerequisites:
    • High school diploma;
    • GED certificate;
    • college enrollment document;
    • college transcripts;
    • college diploma (any level, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.);
    • confirmation of a refugee (asylee) status in the U.S.
    • A high school diploma or its equivalent from an English-speaking country (diploma or transcript as long as the country of origin can be established).
    • Successful completion of extensive coursework at the post-secondary level, resulting in a degree, with the majority of classes conducted in English.
    • Time spent studying and/or working in an English-speaking country, where you were required on a daily basis to perform tasks at a professional level in English.
    • Successfully passing an English language proficiency test from a reputable testing organization (See the Note below).
    • Successful passage of an established interpreter/translator certification exam (that includes a language-specific performance test), such as:
      • The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam (FCICE);
      • Any National Center for State Court (NCSC) exam;
      • Other national or state certification exams, e.g., ATA, BEI, NAJIT, NBCMI, RID, State of Washington Medical Interpreter Certification.
    • Proof of being at least 18 years of age.
    • Proof of graduation from a U.S. high school or its equivalent. One of the following will satisfy this prerequisite:
    • Certificate of completion of a 40hr Interpreter Training course.
    • Proof of English proficiency. One of the following will satisfy this prerequisite::
    • Proof of other language proficiency. Only one of the following is required:
      • The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Exam (FCICE);
      • Any National Center for State Court (NCSC) exam;
      • Other national or state certification exams, e.g., ATA, BEI, NAJIT, NBCMI, RID, State of Washington Medical Interpreter Certification.
      • A high school diploma or its equivalent with classes taught in your other language (diploma or transcript as long as the country of origin can be established).
      • Successful completion of extensive coursework at the post-secondary level, with the majority of classes conducted in the other language.
      • Time spent studying and/or working in a country where you were required on a daily basis to perform tasks at a professional level in the other language.
      • Successfully passing an English language proficiency test from a reputable testing organization 
      • Note: CCHI does not have a preference about and does not approve/recommend any specific language proficiency testing services. In addition to the entities like LTI (https://www.languagetesting.com) and TOEFL (English proficiency, https://www.ets.org/toefl), such testing can be provided by a college, a language company or an employer utilizing their specific vendor).
      • Successful passage of an established interpreter/translator certification exam (that includes a language-specific performance test), such as:
      • Refugee status documentation (if above documentation is not available due to refugee experience).
        • Proof of being at least 18 years of age.
        • Proof of high school diploma, GED, or any higher education degree.
        • Certificate of Completion of a 40hr interpreter training course.
        • Proof of proficiency in English. One of the following will satisfy this prerequisite::
          • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): 570+ on paper; 230+ on computer version; 90+ on iBT.
          • ELPT (English Language Proficiency Test): 950+
          • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery) 80+
          • ECPE (Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English): PASS
          • FCE (First Certificate in English, Level 3): A
          • CAE (Certificate in Advanced English, Level 4): B
          • CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English, Level 5): B
          • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) 7.0
          • Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., or any other degree from an institution of higher education in the U.S. or other English language countries.
          • High school diploma from a high school in the U.S. or other English language country or from an American School abroad.
          • One of the following tests (subject to change):
        • Proof of Spanish proficiency. One of the following will satisfy this prerequisite:
          • Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., or any other degree from an institution of higher education where Spanish is spoken.
          • High school diploma from a high school in a country where Spanish is spoken
          • 24+ semester college credit hours of Spanish
    • NBCMI has two available certifications:
    • Written Exam: focuses more heavily on medical terminology.
    • Oral Exam: this exam is only available in Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
    • Prerequisites:
      • ACTFL Oral Exams (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages): Advanced Mid Level (follow this link www.languagetesting.com) - both the OPI (telephonic) and OPIc (computer recording) are acceptable.
  • CCHI has two available certifications:
    • CoreCHI: requires passing a language-neutral written exam.
    • CHI: requires taking a CoreCHI written exam and an additional oral exam only available to Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin interpreters.

Pricing

The following is a list of some of the costs (these may have changed since our last update) that will come with applying for 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

The first step to start the certification process is to register for one of the National Medical/Healthcare Interpreter Certification Exams. The following are direct links to the pages that will provide all the means to submit all the required documents in order to take the exam(s) to become a certified medical/healthcare interpreter:

Click on one or both of the links above and register to start the process to become an NBCMI and/or a CCHI interpreter. Remember: all requested documents must be submitted when you register in order to find out if you are eligible to take either of the accreditation exams.
 
There is another question that is asked frequently: which is the better certification between NBCMI and CCHI? Frankly, it all comes down to personal preferences, but here are some differences to take into consideration:
  • 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 a 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. This commission used to oversee the Spanish language exams for both National Interpreter Certification Agencies, CCHI and NBCMI, but NBCMI decided to stop obtaining Spanish accreditation through NCCA a couple of years back.
 
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