What Qualifications Do I Need To Be An Interpreter?

This is one of the questions we get asked a lot - and understandably so.

So what qualifications do you need to be an interpreter? Well, it depends on the type of interpreting work being carried out. Read on…

The type of interpreting work defined here is not the context of the work (face to face, telephone or video) but who you are interpreting for. This determines what qualifications you are expected to have.

For the Courts / Legal System:

As you might imagine, when interpreting in a legal situation, you must be educated in this area - and it;s not just certain vocabulary either. You also need to understand the UK legal structure, roles of individuals, the process and what is expected of you.

Qualifications required:

A Degree / Masters Degree or Diploma in Public Sector Interpreting (DPSI) - Law.

You will also need to be security checked - usually the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).


For the NHS / Health Situations:

Another area where specialised knowledge and skills is required - being an interpreter in the often sensitive arena of people’s health needs a considerate nature and professional outlook.

Qualifications required:

A Degree / Masters Degree or Diploma in Public Sector Interpreting (DPSI) - Health.

You will also need to be security checked - usually the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).


For Local Law Firms (LAA funded):

There are lots of UK Solicitors who require Interpreters because they have clients who do not speak English. They will usually go to an agency to book their Interpreter. These law firms usually require this assistance as they are working on LAA (Legal Aid Agency) funded cases. This is where the UK government provides the funding for the legal costs. Law firms must be on the approved LAA list, or they cannot access this funding.

Since 1 September 2018, the LAA has stipulated that law firms must use an Interpreter with specific educational experience, such as a diploma (or any of the other qualifications mentioned in this article).

Diploma courses:


For Other Organisations / Requirements

There are some occasions where the client does not insist upon specific qualifications, however they always prefer something rather than nothing.

Our entry-level courses are perfect for this and can lead on to the DPSI.

For the European Union / Multilingual Conferences:

Interpreters who work for the EU provide very high level (and high stakes) interpreting services for the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The EU employs staff interpreters and freelance interpreters who work alongside each other. They mainly work in the 24 official languages of the EU but all languages are considered.

The qualifications required are based on ‘conference’ or ‘simultaneous’ Interpreting as this is the most required type of Interpreting. This is where you listen to one language and interpret in another - at the same time.

Qualifications required / Application Process:

1. Eligibility. You need one of the following:

  • BA in Conference Interpretation (4 years)

  • MA in Conference Interpretation

  • BA in any subject and a Post-graduate diploma in Conference Interpretation of at least one academic year of full-time study or at least one year of professional experience as a conference interpreter at the level required for international meetings (experience as a court interpreter, liaison interpreter, public service interpreter or company interpreter does not count).

2. Language Profiles & Calendar. Check the current language profiles required by the EU interpreting services. These are subject to change, to reflect prevailing recruitment needs.

3. Pre-Selection Test

If your application is considered eligible by an inter-institutional Screening Committee and complies with our language profile requirements, you will be invited to do an online pre-selection test.

The test consists of a simultaneous interpretation of a speech of approximately 10-12 minutes into your A language. The Screening Committee chooses the passive language for your test from among the following: DE, EN, ES, FR or IT.

4. Accreditation Test

If successful in the pre-selection test, you may be invited to take the accreditation test, subject to testing capacity and service needs.

The accreditation test involves the following for each of the tested languages:

5. Entry into joint database

Successful candidates who pass the accreditation test are put into the joint database of accredited Conference Interpreting Agents (ACIs) and can be recruited by the three interpretation services of the European Union.

If you’d like to discuss your specific situation and get some advice, contact of our friendly team members.

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