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Medical Interpreter Certification

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Do you want to become a certified medical interpreter or learn about these credentials? Then this post is for you.


If you want to skip the read, watch this short video instead.


There are two entities that offer a nationally-recognized credential for healthcare or medical interpreters:

  • The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

  • The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)


ACCREDITATION


CCHI is accredited by the NCCA, which is an entity that oversees its certification process.

NBCMI had this accreditation in the past (for Spanish) but in early 2018, they decided not to pursue it to reallocate resources to improve their program in other languages.

This raised a lot of questions in our industry, but the bottom line is, as far as I know, both credentials are equally recognized and accepted nationwide.


HISTORY


CCHI and NBCMI have a history in common. Since the mid-eighties, different organizations had been working to create a national certification, but it wasn't until 2008 when a group of them officially joined forces and became members of a coalition to develop the first national certification for medical interpreters.


However, in 2009 some members announced they would develop their own certification program and they founded the NBCMI. Later that same year, some of the original members of the coalition founded the CCHI.


CREDENTIALS




Both offer two levels of certification. The first one is the one you earn after passing a written test in English only and it's valid for all languages. The second one is available only for certain languages after passing an oral test.

CoreCHI

Hub-CMI

Written test for all languages

Written test for all languages

CHI-[Language]

CMI-[Language]

Oral test in Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin

Oral test in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian


PRE-REQUISITES

CCHI

NBCMI

Age: 18+

Age: 18+

Education: High School / GED +

Education: High School / GED +

Language proficiency proof: Diploma, test, immersion

Language proficiency proof: Diploma, test

Training: Academic, On-the-job

Training: Only approved courses

Registration validity: 6 months

Registration validity: 1 year

Both programs have similar prerequisites, but here is where I noticed significant differences:


You have to prove proficiency in English and in your foreign language. If you don't have a diploma or have not taken a proficiency test in either one of your languages of expertise, CCHI takes into consideration your language immersion, that is, the time you've spent studying or working in a country where the language is spoken.


However, NBCMI requires a diploma or meeting the minimum score in one of their approved language proficiency tests.

Also, while both require 40 hours of training, CCHI accepts a combination of academic and non-academic courses in medical interpreting. Plus, they allow you to add up hours for certain on-the-job training. On the other hand, NBCMI is very specific about the courses approved for their program.

Once your registration is approved, CCHI gives you 6 months to take the written test and NBCMI gives you one year.



WRITTEN TEST

CCHI

NBCMI

Computer-based

Computer-based

Offered year-round

Offered year-round

On-site or at home

Test on-site or at home

100 multiple-choice questions 75% ethics and standards 25% medical terminology

51 multiple-choice questions 40% ethics and standards 60% medical terminology

120 minutes

75 minutes

1 year to take the oral test, if available

2 years to take the oral test, if available

CCHI's written test is a computer-based test offered year-round and it's administered at specific testing sites. As of 2020, they are allowing candidates to test from home, subject to change.


It has 100 multiple-choice questions. About 75% of the questions are related to ethics and standards of practice and about 25% are related to medical terminology. You get two hours to complete it.

NBCMI's written test is also a computer-based test offered year-round at designated testing sites or from the comfort of your home. It has 51 multiple-choice questions. About 40% of the questions are related to ethics and standards of practice, and about 60% are related to medical terminology. You get 75 minutes to complete it.

Once you pass, if there is an oral test available in your language pair, there are deadlines to keep in mind. CCHI gives you up to 1 year to take the oral test and the NBCMI gives you up to 2 years.



ORAL TEST

CCHI

NBCMI

Set testing windows

Available year-round

Offered only at testing sites

Offered at testing sites or from home

Consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, sight translation

Consecutive interpretation, sight translation

60 minutes

60 minutes

For the oral test, CCHI has specific testing windows each year and you can only test at one of their approved testing sites. NBCMI offers these tests year-round and you can test at designated testing sites or at home.

CCHI will test you in four areas: consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, sight translation, and translation. The test is in that particular order.


For the consecutive segment, there are four scenarios with straight-forward vocabulary and terminology and while the utterances are fairly short the scenarios are long. There are two simultaneous segments (from/into English). Each one lasts only a couple of minutes and the speed should be around 120 wpm or less.


You have to sight translate two short texts from/into English and the translation is done by selecting the right answer in a multiple-choice question, and it's from English into your foreign language.

The NBCMI test has 12 mini-scenarios that you will interpret in the consecutive mode. Each scenario has fewer utterances, however, I found that some utterances were longer compared to the CHI test and there were more medical terms, cultural references, and colloquial language involved. There are also two sight translation passages from English only and there are no simultaneous or translation components.


COST

CCHI

NBCMI

Registration: $35

Registration: $35

Written test: $175

Written test: $175

Oral test: $275

Oral test: $275

Total: $485

Total: $485

Optional badge: $28.00

Optional badge: $35.00


RENEWAL

CCHI

NBCMI

Renewable every 4 years

Renewable every 5 years

32 hours of continuing education

30 hours of continuing education

$300

$300

As you can see after comparing the certifications, both have pros and cons, but the bottom line is you can't go wrong with either one you choose to pursue and you have to take into consideration things like your language of expertise, where you live, timing restrictions, and other individual factors.


Click the following links if you want to learn about my experience going through CCHI's and NBCMI's certification programs.








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