How to become an interpreter – UK

Thinking of becoming an interpreter in the UK? Being fluent in more than one language is a great start, but there’s more to learn. You will need interpreting skills, an understanding of both cultures, and knowledge of specific subject areas. Usually, you will need a recognised qualification, too.

Below you can find the answers to common questions about becoming an interpreter in the UK.

What does an interpreter do?

Interpreters convert speech from one language to another (translators, on the other hand, work with written language). Interpreters can work in any number of settings, depending on their interests and training. They need to deliver information accurately and impartially, using excellent listening and language skills.

How do I start work as an interpreter?

In order to become an interpreter in the UK, you will usually need language competency and a qualification to prove your skills for interpreting (although there are exceptions for rare languages). You will need to learn how to interpret (e.g. simultaneous, consecutive, sight translation) and undertake CPD throughout your career.

Which qualifications do you need to be an interpreter?

While you may be able to start working with a basic level 2 or 3 interpreting qualification, you will usually need more advanced training to register with professional bodies or work with certain organisations. If there is an organisation/area that interests you, it is best to research which qualifications you need.

Do I need a degree to become an interpreter?

Not necessarily. Depending on the type of interpreting you choose, you may need a qualification at level 6 or above, which is the equivalent to degree level. The ITI say that conference interpreters are usually expected to have an MA in interpreting, while public service interpreters may have a DPSI, MA, or similar.

What is the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI)?

The DPSI level 6 qualification is a popular route to interpreting. You can choose health or law pathways, based on your interests. Students learn relevant terminology, interpreting/translation techniques, and prove they can interpret to a high standard. Holders can apply for CIOL & NRPSI memberships.

Can I study a DPSI online course?

The Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) is a nationally recognised qualification that is widely regarded as the gold standard for interpreters. The DPSI course is now available online. The online course is flexible, meaning you can study at a time and place that suits you.

Various courses are available and choosing the right level of qualification is crucial.

The level of your qualification will determine:

  • The complexity of assignments you will be allowed to carry out.
  • Your ability to register with professional organisations.
  • How much you will be able to charge for your work.

Our pick is the DPSI law pathway, as this will guarantee you eligibility for the highest level of interpreting jobs, including assignments available through the Ministry of Justice and the new National Police Language Services Framework.

How it works: Translation and interpreting courses online

You can learn most of the courses listed below in an online environment. This will provide you with access to learning 24 hours a day, with the ability to take courses or tests at times that suit you.  

  • Level 1 Award in Understanding Community Interpreting 
  • Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting
  • Level 4 Certificate in Community Interpreting 
  • Level 6 Diploma in Community Interpreting*  
  • Level 6 Diploma in Public Service Interpreting*   DPSI Law pathway
  • Level 7 Diploma in Translation*

* Qualifications accepted by Linguist Directory. 

Exams take place remotely via video call and exam slots are available every month. The total exam consists of five units. You will be tested on a variety of topics in legal, police and immigration contexts. 

This level 6 qualification will enable you to start promoting your language services on Linguist Directory and register with professional membership bodies. 

Find an online DPSI course – £669 – £699

At Linguist Directory, we can help you find and enrol in an online DPSI course. We work with recognized partners to help interpreters become qualified.

Cost: – £669 – £699 (an equivalent of just 24 – 25 hours of interpreting at legal aid rates)

Gaining a qualification may be easier than you think!

    Get qualified. Request a callback today!

    DPSI learning materials and FREE online resources

    Start learning today! Experience in interpreting is often not sufficient to pass a DPSI exam. Increase your chances of success by expanding your vocabulary and practising interpretation techniques using role plays.

    Diploma in Public Service Interpreting Resource Pack Library Volume 1

    Diploma in Public Service Interpreting Resource Pack Library Volume 1: Scottish Law Role Plays (DPSI Resource Pack Library) is an invaluable resource for students preparing to sit the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI), as well as for anyone interested in Public Service Interpreting.

    The book contains a collection of 14 role play topics, which should assist students to prepare to sit Unit 1 of the DPSI. In addition, the book should help DPSI and non-DPSI students alike to gain invaluable insight into some parts of the justice system that they are likely to encounter when working as public service interpreters in legal settings.

    Scottish Law Exercises: DPSI Resource Pack Library Volume 3

    Scottish Law Exercises: DPSI Resource Pack Library Volume 3 consists of a collection of 44 exercises on various topics of Scots Law. These cover some of the main areas that candidates have to research when preparing for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) exam from the Chartered Institute of Linguists and should make the process of acquiring these competences a more fun and engaging experience.

    The book contains a collection of 14 role play topics, which should assist students to prepare to sit Unit 1 of the DPSI. In addition, the book should help DPSI and non-DPSI students alike to gain invaluable insight into some parts of the justice system that they are likely to encounter when working as public service interpreters in legal settings.

    Note-Taking Manual: A Study Guide for Interpreters and Everyone Who Takes Notes

    Did you know there is a widely unknown but simple way to take notes more clearly and efficiently? With this textbook, you will acquire up to 40 new note-taking symbols through dictations and learn techniques that will enable you to significantly streamline your note-taking.

    Master Legal Vocabulary & Terminology- Legal Vocabulary In Use: Contracts, Prepositions, Phrasal Verbs + 425 Expert Legal Documents & Templates in English!

    Significantly improve your knowledge of legal vocabulary and terminology. You will be taken through the main vocabulary and grammar structures and allowed to practise them through highly targeted vocabulary and grammar activities, which aim to develop, not only your lexical and grammatical skills, but also your confidence and overall competence within international legal settings.

    A Dictionary of Law (Oxford Quick Reference)

    Find over 4,900 clear and concise definitions of terms, concepts, and processes within the English legal system. The tenth edition of the bestselling title in the Oxford Quick Reference series includes more than 120 new entries, including acid attackslasersNightingale CourtsNorthern Ireland Protocol, and retained EU Law. Many of the new and revised entries reflect changes brought about by Brexit and the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

    Health Role Plays (DPSI Resource Pack Library Book 2)

    Health Role Plays (DPSI Resource Pack Library Book 2) is a collection of 16 role play scenarios prepared to help you gain a good understanding of important terminological areas for any healthcare community interpreter, such as common ailments, symptoms, diagnostic tests and medical idioms, such as terms to describe pain.

    Health Exercises (DPSI Resource Pack Library)

    Health Exercises (DPSI Resource Pack Library) consists of a collection of 41 exercises in the field of health.

    These cover some of the main areas that candidates have to research when preparing for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) exam.

    🟢Start NOW! Gain access to hundreds of books and learning materials FREE with a 30-day free Kindle Unlimited trial.

    LearnQ (LearnQual) 

    LearnQual is a provider of high-quality, work-related learning and qualifications designed for individuals and businesses. Their goal is to deliver content that is engaging, informative, useful and above all will help you to excel in your chosen career.

    International School of Linguists (ISL) 

    The International School of Linguists (ISL) is an accredited centre that was founded to raise the standards of linguists through training and testing. It offers qualifications and training programmes developed to help linguists increase work opportunities and advance their careers.

    DPSI Online

    DPSI Online has trained over 1,800 students to become qualified professional interpreters, catering to various starting points. Their courses, accessible from home, offer comprehensive training and skill development. Students receive support from experienced professionals in their language combination.


    Do you have any questions about DPSI?

    Ask professional DPSI-qualified interpreters by leaving a comment below.


    5 responses to “How to Become an Interpreter – Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI)”

    1. Yuliya Korostova avatar
      Yuliya Korostova

      Hi team,

      I’s like to get a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting level 6 and/or DipTrans level 7, How much are these courses and duration please?

      Do I need to pay separately for an exam?

      Is there any chance to study online or do I have to attend classes in London?

      Languages: Russian, English

      Many thanks in advance.

      Kind Regards,

    2. Linguist Directory avatar

      Hello Yuliya,

      There are several providers of DPSI or DipTrans courses in the UK and their courses differ in length, content and price.

      LearnQ is one of the providers. You can use the contact form on this page to contact them and request a callback.

      Exams are paid separately, but if you attend a preparation course, the course provider may book the exam for you or assist you with this.

      English-Russian is a standard language pair, so this should be fairly straightforward.

      DPSI courses and exams are available online.

      Please let us know if you have more questions.

    3. Rob @ Learn Q avatar
      Rob @ Learn Q

      Please note that the DPSI is only only suitable for those who already have a Level 3 Certificate in Community Interpreting, 200+ hours’ professional interpreting experience, and your language proficiency in both languages (oral, written and reading) must be C1 or above on the Common European Framework. It has a very low pass rate (less than 30%) even for experienced interpreters so I wouldn’t recommend even attempting it unless you have the attributes mentioned above – otherwise you would probably spend 12 months and over £1000 working toward an exam that you are likely to fail.

      The usual route is to get a Level 3 (about 3 months and approx. £600 – with Learn Q there is a choice of bundles) then start working as an interpreter, returning for the L6 after a few years if you feel your career would benefit

    4. Helena El Masri avatar
      Helena El Masri

      Dear Yuliya,
      The cost of preparatory courses depends on their content and tutor support.
      DPSI Online offers a course with 12 sessions with a Russian tutor, where you receive feedback on your performance during the practice sessions. We use past papers so you will be aware of the difficulties of the exam. It takes 6 to 8 months to complete the course. The exam can also be taken online with us. Our pass rate is 75% for those who follow a course.

    5. E. Buba avatar
      E. Buba

      I have a Basic Skills/ESOL/ initial stage Teaching qualification and wrote a text book in Oromo language in 1998. I submitted this certificate and other credentials to an interpreting recruitment agency and started freelance interpreting/translation job that I continued doing up to now. I have been assessed by Home Office interpreting and language services and I have been working for them for nearly 10 years now. With this background, I have also been interpreting for immigration tribunals effectively. I want to work towards DPSI qualification, but I have been put off by the percentage of failure in the qualification exam. What do you advice me? Shall I go for it or ignore it and carry on as I am doing now?
      Thank you for your anticipated genuine advice.

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