Alumni Testimonial #11 - How To Become a Medical Interpreter: The Ultimate Guide Part 1

Jul 04, 2023

If you've ever wondered how to become a Medical Interpreter then you’re in the right place. This detailed 4 part guide goes through every crucial step on your way to starting your new career.


Once you’re done reading this, you’ll know exactly what steps to take – what medical interpreting is, what to focus on the most, and what actions to take to become a certified or freelance medical interpreter.

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Jorge Cuello Espinosa Testimonial

“I was grateful to be part of this self-paced course. I'm looking forward to an exciting career as a medical interpreter! 😊

Also, a big thank you to Mr. José Caballero for supporting me during my studies. I thank all MiTio staff for communicating with me, e-mail after e-mail. Thank you for your patience with me. 😅

Finally, I thank Dr. Nelva Lee for guiding our school to be well known and respected in the United States. God bless you all”

What is a Medical Interpreter?

According to the Labor Bureau of Statistics an Interpreter is a Bilingual person who converts information from one language to another.


For Medical Interpreters, the task is made more precarious by the addition of the very intimidating and training intensive medical terminology and jargon added to the communication.


Medical Interpreters must also reduce the register of this terminology in order for the layperson to understand and must often convey cultural nuances back to the medical professional.

 mitio grad

Interpreting medically is no small task, as it requires tremendous amount of mental capacity to remember large passes; tremendous amount of empathy for the patient's concerns; and a tremendous amount of professionalism and discretion.


Due to these skills sets and the medical terminology needed to be proficient as a medical interpreter, the Office of Civil Rights, OCR requires that all healthcare organizations provide free of charge trained medical interpreters to their LEP - Limited English Proficient- patients.


This means that patients should no longer bring a family member in, often children, to interpret for them. It also means that hospitals can no longer ask the housekeeping staff to come in to help interpret. Medical Interpreters are professionals and must be treated as such.


The Medical Interpreter, is a vibrant and beneficial part of the medical interdisciplinary team, and yet, is one who often gets neglected in the cost savings shuffle most hospitals face.


Almost 60% of Hospitals make the choice of not offering trained Medical Interpreters per the law and risk getting a Civil Rights lawsuit.


It is a Russian roulette that has seen many of hospital fork over millions of dollars in lawsuits and settlements instead of offering the best care possible.


In the past, Hospitals would complain that there were not sufficient numbers of trained interpreters available to do the job, that is no longer the case.


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The Future of Medical Interpreting!

The profession has two Certification bodies that provide further proof and credentialing of individuals, as well as Standards of Practice that are codified throughout the industry.


The major interpreting associations such as IMIA -International Medical Interpreters Association, CCHI -Certification Commission For Healthcare Interpreters, and CHIA -California Health Care Association, recognize the uphill battle of getting hospitals to train their staff and have provided training program on their websites, listing traditional and online courses free to the public.

 International Medical Interpreters Associationchia


The trajectory of the industry follows other major healthcare professionals in that there is a period of time where the professionals are not seen as essential and once that changes due to laws and lawsuits, they become a necessity, an integral part of the healthcare team.


We see that trajectory becoming a reality in the medical interpreting field due in part to the contentious yet litigious area of Civil Rights in healthcare.


The future of Medical Interpreting is a bright one. Some states have fully embraced the medical interpreter as a partner in the healthcare delivery setting as they see the cost savings from reduced over prescribing of diagnostic test, the cost saving from reduced medication errors, and the cost savings from averted lawsuits.


Medical Interpreters already enjoy a robust compensation at a median of $43,950 a year from glassdoors 2020 data (up +$1,000/yr from 2019). This median income is only expected to increase with the full integration of the medical interpreter in the reimbursement structures of national health insurance programs as well as greater acknowledgement from the healthcare industry of their importance. 



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What does it take to become a Medical Interpreter?

The first step in becoming a Medical Interpreter is that you must be bilingual or multilingual. Being bilingual is someone who is fluent in two languages. Multilingual, is someone who is fluent in more than one language.


Over 40 million Americans describe themselves as bilingual, with over 50% of Europeans consider themselves bilingual. While most bilinguals are native born or first and second generation immigrants, a growing number of bilinguals are learning their second language in school, usually High School and College.


The problem comes when someone believes themselves to be bilingual but is not able to pass the pre-requisite bilingual test given through LTI - Language Testing International.


Language Testing International


For the purposes of MiTio Inc and many other training programs, it is required that you achieve a score of advanced to be eligible for the certificate programs.


In addition to being bilingual, fluent in another language other than English, the prospective interpreter must also be of at least 18 years of age and a graduate of High School or equivalent.


The reason for the age requirement is to ensure that the interpreter has a level of maturity sufficient enough to handle the rigors and stresses of the job.


The minimum educational requirement is quickly rising. While a High School Diploma is the bare minimum, Bachelor's and even Master's degree are seen often in the workplace.


Once these prerequisites have been presented and verified, the prospective interpreter must attend a minimum of a forty hour medical interpreting certificate course (which is recommended even if you plan to become a freelance interpreter).


The minimum is also quickly rising in that many employers are now requesting a minimum of 160 hour course which is equivalent to the Diploma Course as offered by MiTio.


MiTio's Diploma Course


The 40 hour to 160 hours medical interpreter course makes up the bulk of the requirements to become a Medical Interpreter in most states, however in many states where there is an abundance of medical interpreters and an awareness of their importance, the minimum requirement also includes attainment of Certification either through the NBCMI or the CCHI.


NBCMI LogoCertification Commission For Healthcare Interpreters






It is important that the interpreting program you choose is accredited and/or has a track record of preparing their students for the rigorous application process followed by the written and oral exams.


MiTio Inc has such proven results in that the majority of our alumni who have attempted to become certified have succeeded in their endeavors.


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What To Look for In A Training Program!

The training programs that we at MiTio recommend are rigorous and are developed based on andragogical teaching methods (the art/science of teaching adults) and generally follow the standards as seen below:


Assignments per Week Approximate Completion Time
Each Learning Session 1 Hour - 90 Minutes
Each Practice Session 1 Hour
Each Project 1 Hour - 90 Minutes
Student Discussions per Unit 1 Hour
Each Essay/Book Review 1 Hour - 90 Minutes


When courses are self paced and follow the structure as the outline above, you are able to fit the course into your schedule in the way that fits you the best which ends up giving you a much higher chance of completion success.


-Click here to go to the second part of this series-

How To Become a Medical Interpreter: The Ultimate Guide Part 2


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If you would like to learn more schedule a discovery call today!

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