How Do I Become a Medical Translator?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A medical translator translates medical documents such as diagnoses, pharmacological instructions and treatments, from one language to another in written text. The term should not be confused with a medical interpreter who interprets orally from one language to another. Unlike medical interpreters, medical translators do not assist physicians and patients in a hospital setting.

It would be great to know exactly how one may become a medical translator. However, some research of the profession shows that there is no one particular way and specific training is difficult to come by. Some medical translators have a background in medicine and have combined their medical knowledge with their knowledge of languages. Some medical translators do not have a medical background but have personally studied various areas of medicine in an unofficial manner to provide a most accurate and reliable translation. Either way, it is certain that excellent knowledge of languages and some knowledge of medicine is a must for anyone interested in becoming a medical translator.


It is also important to keep in mind that medical translation may require very specific knowledge. Most medical translators have found areas of medicine which they are comfortable in translating and accept projects involving those areas. As the types of documents that a medical translator may be required to translate can vary greatly, it may be unwise to accept projects with lie far out from one's own work experience. For example, a medical translator that mostly translates informational brochures for hospitals may face difficulty when asked to translate medical software for a company.

If you are interested in this career, you may benefit from education programs to improve written communication skills and medical terminology in the languages you wish to translate. In addition to education, skills and training in the health industry are also invaluable. Experience in workplaces such as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, health related government agencies, community health care, will be most helpful. Some health services firms may require medical translators to pass a certification examination. Material on this exam may include language translation, medical terminology, and personal ethics.

It is probably safe to say that one who wishes to make a long-term career of this challenging but rewarding profession will have natural inclination and interest in the field of medicine.


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