Once you’re done reading this, you’ll know exactly what steps to take depending on if you decide to become a certified In-House Medical Interpreter or a fully Freelance Medical Interpreter.
How do I apply and become an in-house Medical Interpreter?
Most Interpreters work in one of two settings:
1.) The in-house medical facility, being that of a hospital, health clinic,
or doctor’s office.
2.) The other is the telephone interpreter, working remotely from home
and being patched through to a live patient/provider interaction.
If you choose the first setting in obtaining a position as an in-house medical interpreter, the first step is to be sure you have your 60 hour training.
That is a basic requirement posted by most employers. Many employers in
competitive areas will also require a 160 hour diploma program.
The next step is to get some experience under your belt. This may sound
counter-intuitive since you are attempting to get a job in the first
place. But hospitals are creatures of habit and they feel much better about
hiring someone with the background and experience in the industry.
In order to accomplish this, you may choose to either be a volunteer or an
Most healthcare organizations have a very robust volunteer pool and
orientation process. This is a great way to get in the door at your local
As a volunteer you will work where placed. Once they know you are
bilingual, you will most likely work in a customer service function.
If you would like to work for a specific clinic or department however,
you may then request directly from that department head or
supervisor to work as an unpaid intern.
You need not work many hours a week in either capacity, usually 5-10
hours a week will do. The length of time is the important factor here.
Usually 6 months as a volunteer or intern is sufficient to add to your resume
and thus able to list it as work experience. Don’t forget to get a letter of
reference from your immediate supervisor.
As alluded earlier, a letter of reference is essential to the hiring
manager. If you don’t have much work experience as a medical interpreter
then focus on your training and personal traits.
It is always good to list your ability to work with computers and all of your
bilingual abilities to include proficiency test. Do not make the resume more
than two pages.
Including a picture of yourself is also a good idea as it makes you more
than just a name, people remember faces. Lastly, be sure to convey
positivity in your resume and subsequently your interview. You can
obtain a good resume format from Microsoft docs templates as well as
google docs templates.
When applying for a healthcare position, keep in mind that most
healthcare organizations are drug free workplaces and most are also
smoke free. Be sure to be honest in your application.
For all positions that you left, state that you left for career advancement.
It is a good idea to have in a word document all of your experience, to
include time worked as well as salary and contact person for all of
your positions worked for the past 5-10 years.
If you have all of this pre-typed then it is just a matter of
copying and pasting if electronic application or transcribing if written.
It always a good idea to prepare well for an interview. Google
common interview questions and know the answers you will give.
Also, prepare a three to four paragraph intro bio to give when they ask you
‘Tell me about yourself.” Always be positive during the interview. Try not to talk
badly about your ex-employers. If you do not know how to do something,
say I do not know but I am willing to learn and I am a quick learner.
Do your best to not about salary or benefits during the interview no matter
how tempting it may seem.
Do ask about workplace culture, specific duties and responsibilities, etc.
Always thank your interviewer for the opportunity and ask them for
the job. Say something like "I am positive I can do this job well, and would
love it if you would give me the opportunity to shine."
Lastly, send a thank you note two-three days after the interview and re-ask for
the position if appropriate.
What it takes to be a Freelance Medical Interpreter
To be a Freelance Medical Interpreter, one must have much of the
same skills sets and experience as an in-house interpreter, yet in addition,
you must possess tenacity and perseverance.
It helps if you have a group of hospitals or health clinics that are familiar
with your abilities and work ethic that you can utilize as your main group
To accomplish this networking partnership the Freelance Interpreter
would be well served in establishing these relationships first by volunteering
or interning with hospitals in the area.
Once those connections are made the Freelance interpreter would
need to set up a business:
1.) Get an EIN number by going to the IRS-tax-id.com site
2.) Register business through the Secretary of State website of your
3.) Get a business address and phone (this can be your personal info)
however most interpreters choose to provide some anonymity between
their personal lives and their business.
4.) Get business cards and logo. These can be obtained through
vistaprint or a similar site
5.) Get a website or social media presence. Most freelancers will set
up a Facebook or LinkedIn page.
Once your business is set up you may begin marketing your services
to the community. Local churches and or organizations servicing the
population of patients you seek to interpret for would be your first natural
customers. Prepare educational seminars for them and request to speak at
Lastly, be prepared to file a 1099 form for your taxes. When doing so,
be aware that you may deduct your mileage, your work related purchases,
as well as any phone or internet charges related to conducting your
freelance work. You are in essence your own small business and are
treated as one by the IRS.
In conclusion, being a freelance interpreter gives you much flexibility
and autonomy. You set your own schedule and develop your own
clientele. So long as you have a good work ethic and are professional you
should not have any difficulty building your customer base and providing for
your self a living wage and income.
If you would like to learn more schedule a discovery call today!