What is a Certified translation?

August 4, 2015
What is a Certified

You’ve visited or lived in the native country, spent years speaking the language and now you want to put years of practice to work by being a translator. A question a lot of professional translators ask themselves is whether to become a certified translator. A certified translator is a translator who has passed the requisite certification exam administered by a professional translation organization such as the American Translator Association (“ATA”).

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Certified Translator


  • Skill Validation – Passing the test indicates that you’ve met the minimum skill level to produce a translation that is professionally usable according to the professional translation organization.
  • Professional Validity – Many translation service employers and customers identify certified translators as being committed to their profession and having competency in the language being translated.
  • Cons:

  • Cost – Certification tests can costs a few hundred dollars, not including annual membership and registration fees.
  • Time – Certification exams can take a few hours to complete and include translation of technical materials such as financial, political or scientific documents. The cost and technical nature requires applicants to be fully prepared.
  • How to Become a Certified Translator

    In the U.S., the American Translator Association is the prominent nationally-recognized professional translation organization. The ATA requires the following three steps to become certified:

  • Membership in the ATA
  • Eligibility for the Certification Exam. This is accomplished by:
  • Signing off to the ATA’s Code of Ethics
  • Having any of the following combinations of academic and professional experience:
  • A non-translation & interpretation bachelor’s degree and two years of professional translation experience
  • Less than a bachelor’s degree and five years of professional translation experience
  • Another U.S. certification program is offered by the Global Translation Institute. Translators can also become certified in other countries. Organizations include: the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (Australia), Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council and the Chartered Institute of Linguists (United Kingdom).

    If I need a Certified Translation, can it only be done by Certified Translators?

    While being a certified translator helps validate expertise in a translation, certified translators are not the only ones who can perform certified translations. U.S. law does not require accreditation in order to be a translator. In fact, U.S. authorities such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services define a certified translation as a translation where a translator attests to being competent to translate and that the translation is accurate, making no mention of being a certified translator.

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