Schools for Aspiring Court Interpreters: How to Choose

Certificate and associate's degree programs are available in legal interpretation to students with varying levels of experience in the field. These programs may be found at community colleges and through the continuing education departments of 4-year universities.

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Court interpreters help people who are not fluent in English communicate during legal proceedings, such as trials and depositions. Students with no experience in interpretation or translation can gain an introductory knowledge of the field through an associate's degree program, while students already employed in the legal field or currently working as an interpreter in a non-legal setting can enroll in certificate programs.

10 Schools With Court Interpreter Programs

There are a number of universities and colleges that offer programs in legal interpretation, ten of which are listed below.

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Types Tuition (2016-2017)*
University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 4-year, Public Certificate $2,595
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Certificate $4,979
California State University - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Certificate $4,800
Union County College Cranford, NJ 2-year, Public Certificate $4,450 in-district,
$8,900 in-state,
$8,900 out-of-state (2015-2016)
Laney College Oakland, CA 2-year, Public Certificate $828 in-state,
$3,834 out-of-state
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, Private Certificate $4,925
University of Georgia Athens, GA 4-year, Public Certificate $849
California State University - Fullerton Fullerton, CA 4-year, Public Certificate $3,260
Bellevue College Bellevue, WA 4-year, Public Certificate $3,619 in-state,
$8,957 out-of-state
University of California - San Diego San Diego, CA 4-year, Public Certificate $4,850

*Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, School websites

School Selection Criteria

Students looking for court interpreter programs might want to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Students who are interested in studying court interpretation should look for programs offering training that is compatible with their second language.
  • Some programs are designed specifically to train legal interpreters, while others provide a foundation in language interpretation and allow students to choose later in the program whether they want to specialize in legal, medical or other types of interpretation. Students who are interested in interpretation, but unsure of which field they want to pursue may benefit from a program with a more flexible curriculum.
  • Students who need flexible scheduling options should look for certificate programs that offer classes on weeknights or weekends.
  • Faculty in many interpreter programs are experienced professionals who have obtained state or federal certification; therefore, students may want to research a program's faculty to ensure they are highly qualified.

Court Interpreter Certificate

Certificate programs for court interpreters are offered at many community colleges and in university continuing education departments under various titles, such as a Spanish/English Legal Interpretation Certificate or a Certificate in Court Interpreting - Spanish/English. Certificate programs in court interpretation may last a few weeks or a few months. They are typically geared toward legal professionals who want to become certified in order to pursue a career in court interpretation.

Associate's Degree in Translating and Interpreting

Undergraduate programs for court interpreters are usually 2-year degree programs such as an Associate of Applied Science in Translating and Interpreting or an Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language Interpreting. These programs usually provide a general knowledge base in language interpretation with an option to concentrate in court and legal interpretation. Students are often required to take a written and oral exam to prove they are bilingual prior to gaining acceptance. They might also have to complete a practicum or internship.

Regardless of whether students pursue a certificate or associate's degree in court interpreting, they will learn the necessary skills to be successful in the legal interpretation profession. Students should look for programs that match their scheduling needs and include courses taught by qualified faculty.

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