What is the difference between Certified and Qualified Interpreter?

The difference between a Certified and Qualified Interpreter...Know the difference before you contract an interpreter for your specific event.
Faviola the CEO Hustler

What is the difference between a certified and qualified interpreter?

Businesses and corporations need interpreting and translation services therefore understanding the difference is very important.

Do you know the difference between a certified and qualified interpreter?  Unfortunately, many businesses are not aware of this difference, nor the specific qualification requirements. As a matter of fact, they don’t even know the difference between an interpreter or a translator.


As an agency owner, it is your responsibility to educate the client so they understand the difference.


Unfortunately, there are many interpreting agencies that don’t even know the rules, guidelines when contracting an interpreter let alone being able to educate the client.

Many clients are under the impression that ALL interpreters are CERTIFIED and that ALL interpreters are capable of handling ALL types of assignments.  And unfortunately, that is so far from the truth!

When I was operating as an Agency I had to establish a contracting process with characterization for these terms that correlate directly with a definition given by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. 


Do you know the difference between certified and qualified Interpreters?


A certified interpreter is a person who has passed the California Court Interpreter Certification Examination and who has fulfilled the corresponding Judicial Council requirements.


The state personnel board also provides a certification test for medical and administrative hearing interpreters for California. 


A qualified interpreter is a person who is not a certified interpreter but speaks the language to be interpreted fluently and speaks 2 or more languages fluently and that poses a minimum of 2 years of experience.

Independent Contractor Interpreters/Freelancers

Another topic that is so important is that agencies rely on interpreters because without interpreters they don’t have an agency – just like staffing agencies are NOT an agency without employees.



So it’s important that you NOT ONLY educate the client but that you educate your “freelance/independent contract” interpreter in order to provide Top-Notch services to your clients.

A report done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics for 2008-2009 (old report) found that 22 percent of interpreters and translators are self-employed.

About the Industry

Let me explain a few things about this industry in order to help potential clients make the right choice in choosing an interpreting service company, but also help new freelance interpreters understand the requirements.

Many agencies throughout the years have implemented certain processes and procedures unfortunately when it comes to adhering to those policies and procedures that’s where we run into issues.

You see when I first started I started like many of you  – working with agencies.  I soon realized that all these agencies were just “booking and booking” and promoting false information to the clients.

Example: They were promoting that ALL interpreters had “more than 2 years of experience” when indeed only had 1-3 months of experience.That “all interpreters were certified” when indeed they only had an in-house certificate. All “interpreters are trained in all business sectors” (unfortunately that’s impossible unless you’re a dictionary who can interpret in every single business sector) when indeed only had medical or legal experience and well the list goes on…

The other problem was that they were NOT even verifying business licenses, qualifications, and/or certifications.

Interpreting and Translation

How are rates established?

Different rates are established by the court system or interpreters themselves and can be based on their experience and qualifications in the industry.


Unfortunately, many interpreters will increase their rates based on fellow interpreters’ increase. 


Businesses must recognize rates based on certification, qualifications, experience, type of appointment, but also whether or not the client requires a certified interpreter vs. a qualified interpreter.


In most cases a certified interpreter is not required; therefore businesses should NOT have to pay a certified rate, but they should pay based on the interpreter’s experience and qualifications.


More importantly, businesses need to realize that many “Certified” interpreters are NOT DEEM QUALIFIED for all sectors.


NOTE – I’m NOT YET CERTIFIED, yet I’ve had to replace many “certified interpreters” that have been excused from their assignments due to the “Lack of Experience, Qualifications with the terminology”.


I have over 17+ years of professional experience in a variety of venues – from Legal to Environmental, Political, Medical, etc… 


I also have experience in both Consecutive and Simultaneous modes of Interpretation vs. many interpreters who ONLY have experience in one or the other.

Setting the Standards

That is why setting standards is very important to our agency, although management takes high measures in implementing these steps “employees” will not always adhere, causing problems for the agency.

We try our best to be an agency – who will NOT overlook requirements just to attain an interpreter for an assignment, or just to cover an assignment.

We go the extra mile to ensure that our clients receive what they deserve.

If you are looking for a Qualified, Professional, Experienced Interpreter / Translator for any of your events, documents, or venues – please don’t hesitate in contacting me

As of 2010 I NO longer operate as an agency

Although I no longer offer other languages or operate as an agency, I’m happy to assist you in verifying Interpreters’ skills, qualifications, etc…

Contact me for more information about verifying an interpreter’s credentials, skills, and qualifications…


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