How do I get Medical Interpreter Training?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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There are a number of ways to receive medical interpreter training, some of which culminate in formalized certification which can make a medical interpreter more employable. People who are interested in careers as medical interpreters may want to consider such programs along with membership in a professional organization, as these qualifications will appeal to potential employers and may be required by some large hospitals and clinics. People who are more interested in just serving their communities as patient advocates can pursue less rigorous training options.

Specialized training is required to be a successful medical interpreter. These professionals need to be proficient in a foreign language so that they can communicate effectively and comfortably with people, and they also need to thoroughly understand medical terminology, how medical procedures work, and how to present information about medical conditions and procedures to patients. Even more training is required for people who want to work as medical translators, translating documents ranging from test results to academic papers from one language to another.

Formal medical interpreter training is offered by several colleges and universities, sometimes as part of a larger program which trains interpreters, and sometimes specifically in a medical interpreter training program. Schools of public health also train medical interpreters or offer referrals to organizations which offer training if their students are interested in learning to be medical interpreters. These programs evaluate students by rigorous standards, only offering degrees to students who are competent and qualified to work as interpreters.


Language schools and schools which train interpreters sometimes offer courses in medical interpretation. These courses can require as few as 50 hours of classroom time, and they usually assume that interpreters are already bilingual. For people who have not yet learned a second language, programs which provide language proficiency should be taken first so that the students will feel comfortable learning interpretation skills. It can take several years to become comfortable in a second language, which makes becoming a medical interpreter a serious commitment for someone who is not already multilingual.

More training programs are available through some hospitals and community organizations. These medical interpreter training programs often rely on an apprenticeship format, with trainees following experienced interpreters to pick up skills. They can also include some time in the classroom to get familiar with medical terminology and hospital protocols. Many urban communities have a critical shortage of medical interpreters and volunteering with a community organization to undergo medical interpreter training and work in hospitals and clinics can help ensure that foreign language speakers, immigrants, and tourists get the medical care they need.


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Post 4

Go to the IMIA website and go to trainings to see what trainings are available in your area.

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