How to Become a Certified Translator

April 19, 2024
How to Become a Certified Translator

The qualifications you need to work as a translator vary by country. Let’s see how to become a certified translator in America, the UK, and Australia! 

What Is a Certified Translator?

Some confusion exists regarding the definition of a certified translator because it means different things in each country. Generally, certification provides an official way for a translator to prove the quality of their work.

Note the significant difference between certified translators and certified translation services, which relates to the authenticity and accuracy of a translation.

Read more: What Is Certified Translation and When Do You Need to Use It?

Before we define what a certified translator is and how to become one, let’s look at the benefits of earning a translator certificate in the USA, the UK, and Australia.

Benefits of Having a Translator Certification

Becoming a certified translator means more than proving your skills to yourself. It allows you to demonstrate to clients that you represent an established, trustworthy source of high-quality translations. Earning your certificate can help you win more work, particularly in specialist fields. Medical translation, for example, requires keen attention to detail and outstanding linguistic skills.

1. Enhanced credibility and professional recognition: Certification boosts your credibility, showing clients and colleagues that you meet key professional standards in translation and ethics. This can help build trust with new clients and be crucial for winning complex projects, often leading to new opportunities and influencing clients’ choice of translator.

2. Increased marketability and job opportunities: Certification can greatly improve a translator's appeal, helping them stand out to employers and clients, especially in specialized areas like medical, legal, or technical fields. It shows not only language fluency but also deep knowledge of specific subjects and terminologies, making certified translators more attractive.

3. Access to Higher-Paying Assignments: Certified translators usually get better-paying jobs because many organizations and government bodies require certified translators for important tasks like legal documents or medical records. This certification means they can offer more accurate and reliable translations, leading to higher pay and steadier work.

Read more: Highest Paying Languages for Translators

Do you want to learn more about the translation industry? Visit our YouTube channel or check out this video that we've made for you:

How to Become a Certified Translator in the US

As the world’s largest economy, America offers translators plenty of room for professional growth.

The primary route to certification in the US runs through the American Translators Association. For $525, translators can sit through a challenging, three-hour exam that tests their comprehension of the source-language text, translation techniques, and writing ability in the target language.

Anyone can work as a translator in the US. However, language professionals seeking high-paying positions in legal translation services must obtain certification. Similarly, interpreters need certifications for legal interpretation jobs in the state and federal court certification systems.

To become a certified translator in the US, follow these step-by-step guidelines:

Gain language proficiency and education: Ensure you have a high level of proficiency in at least two languages. Although not always mandatory, having a degree in translation, linguistics, or a related field can be beneficial. Some translators also have degrees in their specialized fields of translation, such as law or medicine.

1. Gather experience: Gain experience in translation through internships, volunteer work, or employment. Practical experience is essential for developing your skills and understanding the nuances of professional translation.

2. Choose certification: Decide on a certification that aligns with your career goals. In the US, the most recognized certifications are offered by, as mentioned, American Translators Association (ATA) and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT).

3. Prepare for the certification exam: Study for the certification exam by reviewing practice tests, attending workshops, and possibly enrolling in courses designed to prepare you for the exam.

4. Take the certification exam: Register for and take the certification exam. The ATA, for example, offers exams that test your translation skills between English and specific languages. Passing this exam grants you certified status.

5. Maintain certification: Stay certified by fulfilling ongoing requirements such as continuing education or periodic retesting, depending on the certifying body’s regulations.

How to Become a Translator in the UK

In the UK, anyone can work as a translator. The UK has no system in place to certify translators like many other countries do. You can join a translation agency or find your own clients as a freelancer to start translating. However, translators looking to demonstrate their abilities have several options. 

One option is to become a Chartered Linguist (CL). To obtain the status of CL, the translator must prove five years of professional experience and hold a relevant qualification, such as the IoLET Diploma in Translation or an MA or MSc in translation. Applicants must also demonstrate a commitment to continuing professional development. The exam is free for members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and £149 for non-members.

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) provides another route to certification in the UK. Translators who wish to become members of ITI must take a translation assessment and submit professional references that demonstrate at least three years of professional translation experience. Applicants with a Diploma or an MA in translation do not have to take the entry test, which costs £75.  

To become a translator in the UK, follow these step-by-step instructions:

1. Achieve language fluency and cultural knowledge: Become fluent in at least two languages, including your source language and target language. Understanding the cultures related to these languages will improve your ability to adapt content culturally, enhancing your job prospects and translation skills.

2. Enhance writing skills: Cultivate excellent writing skills and a strong command of grammar in your target language. Effective translation requires the ability to convey meaning clearly and accurately.

3. Specialize in a field: Consider specializing in a specific field such as legal, medical, technical, or financial translation. Expert knowledge in a particular subject area can make you more marketable and may allow for higher rates.

4. Gain practical experience: Build experience through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering in translation services. This real-world experience is invaluable for developing professional skills like having an eye for detail and building a portfolio.

5. Consider formal qualifications: While not mandatory, obtaining formal qualifications can improve your credibility. Options include pursuing a degree in translation or languages, or certifications like the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) from the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

6. Join professional organizations: Become a member of professional organizations like as mentioned CIOL or the ITI. These bodies offer resources, networking opportunities, and further credentials like the status of Chartered Linguist.

7. Build up your career: Begin working as a freelancer, join a translation agency, or seek in-house positions. Building a strong network and maintaining a professional online presence can also help attract potential clients.

How to Become a Translator in Australia 

Becoming a certified translator in Australia requires the demonstration of core translation skills. 

Certification through the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) began on January 1st, 2018. The test assesses translators’ knowledge and skills to certify they meet professional standards. Applicants will notice an emphasis on education, training, and ongoing professional development throughout the certification process. The test costs $605 AUD.

To become a translator in Australia, you can follow these practical steps:

1. Develop language skills through education: Attain proficiency in at least two languages, typically including English due to its prevalence in Australia, and complement this with a formal education in languages, translation, or a related field. Although not mandatory, degrees and diplomas in translation from Australian universities are highly beneficial and respected.

2. Gain relevant experience: Build experience by working in roles that require multilingual skills or volunteering for community organizations that need translation services. This practical experience is crucial for developing accuracy and speed in translation.

3. Obtain certification: Pursue certification through the NAATI. NAATI certification is widely recognized in Australia and is often required for professional translation work, especially for official documents.

4. Prepare and take the NAATI exam: Enroll in preparatory courses to familiarize yourself with the exam format and practice essential skills. Then, register for and sit the NAATI certification examination. Passing this test will certify your competence to work as a professional translator in Australia.

5. Continuing professional development: Maintain your certification with NAATI through ongoing professional development and by revalidating your credentials periodically. This ensures your skills and knowledge remain current amidst the rise of AI.

6. Start your career: Begin your career as a freelance translator, become part of a translation agency, or apply for roles that require multiple languages. Developing a solid professional network and utilizing online resources can also assist in securing job opportunities.

International Translator Certification 

Translators who wish to expand their businesses beyond domestic borders have several options. The most prestigious translation certification, however, comes from the United Nations. 

The UN certification process tests students on the six official UN languages: Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. 

The UN translation certification process proves challenging. Translators must hold a relevant Bachelor’s degree and a diploma from an accredited translation school. A Master’s degree is preferred. Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in translating at least two of the UN’s six official languages into one target language. 

The testing process begins with a written interview. Those who pass must submit to a competency-based interview. The arduous process ensures the UN certifies only the best in their field. As a result, the UN certification enjoys global respect, making it well worth the hard work for translators who earn it.

Final Thoughts

Are you a certified translator? Do you believe that the certification process helped you? Leave a comment below to share your experience with our readers! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



Subscribe to receive all the latest updates from Tomedes.

Post your Comment

I want to receive a notification of new postings under this topic


Need expert language assistance? Inquire now

Do It Yourself

I want a free quote now and I'm ready to order my translations.

Do It For Me

I'd like Tomedes to provide a customized quote based on my specific needs.

Want to be part of our team?