How To Become a Certified Spanish Interpreter (Plus Career Paths)

Learn about Spanish interpreter degrees and certificate programs and certification options, including areas of specialization that you can choose from. Keep reading to find out more.

a Certificate of Completion from an approved medical interpreter

medical interpreter
Medical translation is the practice of translating various documents—training materials, medical bulletins, drug data sheets, etc. —for health care, medical devices, marketing, or for clinical, regulatory, and technical documentation. › wiki › Medical…

training course of at least 40 hours. a transcript from a college or university where you took at least 3 credit hours of medical interpreting coursework.

How to become a certified medical interpreter: CCHI vs NBCMI – Including 2020 updates!!!

What does a Spanish interpreter do?

A Spanish interpreter has several important job responsibilities depending on their chosen career path:


Medical interpreters often work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities assisting Spanish-speaking patients who are being served by English-speaking doctors and nurses. Having a professionally trained medical interpreter on staff can help ensure that patients receive the right information and know how best to treat themselves or their ailments.


Legal interpreters can help Spanish-speaking individuals who need help in legal situations. Most often, legal interpreters work with courts or law firms to help translate important legal definitions and assist in trials. This ensures that the communication is clear and Spanish speakers can represent themselves fairly.


Government interpreters often work for government agencies to help translate important information between its citizens and government officials or to help in communicating with other countries. It can be beneficial for interpreters in this profession to have a strong vocabulary in both languages to effectively relay information to each party.

Travel and tourism

Spanish interpreters for travel and tourism can often find roles or positions in airlines or popular tourist sites that might attract individuals from Spanish-speaking countries. This job can allow them to discuss important topics and assist Spanish speakers with questions or inquiries they have regarding travel or the specific tourist location.

What is a certified Spanish interpreter?

A certified Spanish interpreter is an individual who uses their skills of communication to translate Spanish into English or vice versa. Most often, Spanish interpreters work primarily with verbal speech, however, they can sometimes share responsibilities with translators, who work in deciphering written communication. Spanish interpreters can often find roles or positions in several fields, including hospitals, law firms and more, bridging conversations between two or more individuals.

How to become a certified Spanish interpreter

Here is a list of steps you can follow to help you become a certified Spanish interpreter:

1. Become fluent in Spanish

Becoming fluent in Spanish is important because it can allow for efficient and effective communication between all parties involved. This can include the vocabulary as well as the grammar and syntax of the language. When learning the language, it can be beneficial to read Spanish literature, practice speaking with someone who is already fluent and visit Spanish-speaking countries to help you develop and improve.

2. Earn an undergraduate degree

Though there are certificate programs to help you develop key interpreter skills, it can be beneficial to pursue an undergraduate degree to help you gain influential credentials for your interpreting career. Many institutions offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish, which can help you learn more about the language and culture. However, some colleges and universities might also offer a degree in Spanish-English translation and interpretation, which can help you learn important information about the career, or a specific field of interpreting, such as medical or legal.

3. Gain relevant experience

It can be beneficial for aspiring Spanish interpreters to gain relevant experience in the field because it can help their resume become more noticeable to employers. While earning their undergraduate degree, individuals can pursue several opportunities to help them develop impressive language capabilities, including internships and studying abroad. Internships at certain companies or facilities that require Spanish interpreters can help individuals understand more about the career and gain valuable experience before graduating. Studying abroad in Spanish-speaking countries can help individuals continue to improve their knowledge of the language and culture which they can use in future job positions.

4. Get certification

The most common certification Spanish interpreters receive is the American Translators Association (ATA) certification, which allows interpreters to test their knowledge and understanding of Spanish translation through an examination. However, depending on their desired career path, Spanish interpreters can pursue other types of certifications for different fields or specializations, including a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) certification provided by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.

5. Consider higher education

Seeking higher education or additional training for a Spanish interpreter career can help individuals continue to develop and improve their language skills. It can also allow them to specialize in multiple areas of translation to help them find more job opportunities. For example, attending a graduate program might teach them more about translation theory or financial terminology translation to help boost their occupational credentials. Its also possible that certain credentials, such as the ATA, might require individuals to earn a graduate degree in order to renew their certification.


Here are a few skills that Spanish interpreters use throughout their career:


Its important for Spanish interpreters to have strong communication capabilities in order to perform their job duties most effectively. This can include understanding different medical or legal terminology, using clear and concise words and demonstrating a friendly tone and demeanor.

Active listening

Having the ability to actively listen to Spanish or English-speaking individuals is important because it can allow interpreters to fully understand the information being presented and the best way to translate it. It also can help to foster trust and respect with the people interpreters are communicating with, allowing them to learn and share sensitive medical or legal information.

Problem solving

Sometimes, when translating, interpreters might not know the exact word or phrase to use. Developing powerful problem-solving skills can help in these situations, as interpreters find new ways to communicate certain ideas and sentences to other parties involved.

Cultural understanding

Cultural understanding can help individuals notice and understand certain non-verbal cues that might be a natural part of communication for certain cultures. These cues can help them translate and communicate information more efficiently for both conversing parties.

Salary and job outlook

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


How do I become a certified Spanish translator?

To officially become a certified translator, you must:
  1. Make sure your language(s) are supported by the ATA exam (listed below)
  2. Become a member of the ATA (for at least 4 weeks prior to testing) and take their pledge of ethics.
  3. Pay the costs of the translator certification.
  4. Take the ATA certification exam.
  5. Pass the exam.

Can I be a translator without a degree?

You can become a translator without a degree. At a minimum, professional language translators have a high school diploma or GED. Typically, employers don’t require a formal degree in the language or languages you desire to translate, though some employers or clients may prefer it.

How do I get started as an interpreter?

To become a certified court interpreter, you’ll need to take Oral Proficiency Exams, the English-Only Written Exam, and the Bilingual Oral Interpreting Exam. Some languages also require certification status. To become a registered interpreter, you need to pass Oral Proficiency Exams and the English-Only Written Exam.

What do you need to be a Spanish translator?

How to become a certified Spanish interpreter
  1. Become fluent in Spanish. Becoming fluent in Spanish is important because it can allow for efficient and effective communication between all parties involved. …
  2. Earn an undergraduate degree. …
  3. Gain relevant experience. …
  4. Get certification. …
  5. Consider higher education.

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