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!

    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.

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