Have questions about the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate? Read through our frequently asked questions to get answers.

If you need additional information, contact the program coordinator, Gayle Tang.

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a 17-unit program that prepares bilingual and bicultural students to develop the awareness, knowledge and skills needed for effective language interpretation in healthcare and communities settings. The HCI certificate is awarded upon successful program completion and is widely accepted for employment opportunities. 

The training program is designed for bilingual and bicultural individuals who are interested in facilitating linguistic and cultural communication between people who speak different languages and from different cultures. This is a competency-based training program involving lectures, discussions, simulations, field work and special student projects. Besides working with the course instructor, students will be working closely with their assigned Language Coach to enhance their linguistic and interpreting skills. Minimal student qualifications include the ability to speak fluently in English and in their language of service, and a commitment to the entire training program which consists of 6 courses. These courses and the mandatory introductory course are briefly described below.


Intro to Interpreting in Health Care is designed for individuals who are interested in facilitating linguistic and cultural communication between patients, families, healthcare providers and health systems or are simply interested in learning about the field of interpreting. Students are introduced to the California Healthcare Interpreting standards and protocols. The roles and the scopes of practice of healthcare interpreters are explored. The HCI program requirements will be explained in detail. Linguistic proficiency assessments are offered to those interested in enrolling in the HCI program after course completion. All HCI courses are CSU transferable.

Health 80C | 6.0 Units

Interpreting in Healthcare Settings I is an introduction to medical interpreting. This course is designed to develop the basic awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary for language interpretation in healthcare settings. At the completion of this course, students will be able to: describe the roles and responsibilities of a healthcare interpreter; explain the code of ethics involved in medical interpreting; discuss the similarities and differences between the U.S. biomedical culture and other medical cultures; acquire a basic knowledge of common medical conditions, treatments, and procedures; gain insight in language and cultural nuances in specific communities; have opportunities to explore and develop other knowledge and skills necessary in the art of interpretation.

Health 80L | 0.5 Unit

This language lab is a practice component of the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate of Achievement program and is taken with HLTH 80C. Students work with Language Coaches to practice interpreting skills and apply interpreting standards and protocols learned in course lectures. A focus on active listening, linguistic equivalency, vocabulary development, and managing the flow of the interpreting encounter in healthcare and other settings will be emphasized.

Health 81C | 6.0 Units

Interpreting in Healthcare Settings II is advanced training for bilingual individuals as integral members of healthcare teams, bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between clients and providers. A focus on specialty areas such as genetics, mental health, physical medicine, palliative care, and issues related to diverse populations. Continued development in managing the interpreting session using onsite and remote modalities. Advanced skills development in ethical decision-making, note-taking, advocacy, and active listening. Continued development in cultural competency and intercultural communication skills.

Health 81L | 0.5 Unit

This language lab is a practice component of the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate of Achievement program and is taken with HLTH 81C. Students work with Language Coaches to practice interpreting skills and apply interpreting standards and protocols learned in course lectures. A focus on active listening, linguistic equivalency, vocabulary development, and managing the flow of the interpreting encounter in healthcare and other settings will be emphasized.

Health 82 | 3.0 Unit

Professional Skills for Healthcare Interpreters addresses professional skills required in the workplace and is an integral part of the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate program. This course supports students in enhancing key professional skills essential for success in internship placements and on the job. Students focus on seamless integration of interpreting skills, knowledge of special populations, systems, legal, regulatory, and accreditation standards, and the role of advocacy.

Health 300 | 1.0 Unit (up to 4.0 Units possible)

Work Experience in Health & Social Services responds to the need for an internship placement for all students enrolled in certificate programs in the Health Education Department. Students will practice and apply key knowledge and skills in professional settings. Students will complete an internship with local employers to gain meaningful work experience and earn credit towards a certificate in the Health Education field. One unit of credit is earned for every 60 hours of unpaid, or 75 hours of paid work.

Health 91N (1.0 unit)Coaching Healthcare Interpreters focuses on how to coach emerging interpreters in integrating medical terminology in various languages to their vocabulary, how to create activities that assist the memorization of terminology and how to set up, facilitate and debrief role-plays in which the skills of interpreting are practiced. This course is designed to fully certified working healthcare interpreters who would like to coach emerging interpreters.

Health 91K (1.0 unit online course): Language Access Strategies and Effective Collaboration with Healthcare Interpreters focuses on Language and cultural barriers and how that can impede the health of individuals and can be costly for health systems. This course provides language access strategies and effective collaboration with interpreters across language and cultural barriers in healthcare settings.

Health 91P (1.0 unit)The Role of Language Access in Advancing Patient-Centered Care is designed to explore the complexities of health and health care, and provides a learning laboratory for collaboration and innovation, breaking the isolation in the work of interpreters. Students will be equipped with 21st-century skills in managing the interpreting session while learning about advances in medicine. All are welcome to join in this learning collaborative aiming towards advancing patient and family-centered care. Second language skills are not required. Healthcare interpreter CEUs may be available for eligible participants.

The CCSF Healthcare Interpreting Certificate is well recognized in the industry and is widely accepted by the public and private hospitals, clinics, and health systems. Upon completion of the program, students will have been comprehensively evaluated and well equipped with skills necessary to facilitate understanding and communication between patients, families, and providers, bridging cultural and linguistic gaps, and promote quality service and safe care. Qualified interpreters are essential to eliminating health disparities and promoting health equity for linguistically and culturally diverse communities.


Check out this article that discusses the importance of Healthcare Interpreters in the field: Medical Errors Often Result from Language Barriers

The roles of the HCI are message converter, message clarifier, cultural clarifier, and advocate. For more information please review the HCI standards.

Most Interpreters enjoy work as freelancers where they can make their own schedule. They may also work as a full-time or part-time interpreter in various public and private sectors, such as hospitals, clinics, health plans, social services, insurance, and educational institutions. Some may already have a job as a medical assistant, nurse, receptionist, therapist, researcher, community liaison, etc., and are interested in this program to upskill and expand their role as qualified bilingual employees. Entrepreneurs may explore business opportunities in language services.

Salaries of interpreters and translators can vary widely depending on the language, subject matter, skill, experience, education, certification, employer, and location.

The program can be completed in 2 semesters

  • SECOND SEMESTER: HLTH 81C, 81L, 82, and 300 (Internship in local clinics and hospitals)

There are no prerequisites but there are recommended courses prior to enrollment or during the first semester, especially if you don't have a health background:

  • HIT 51 Basic Medical Terminology (1.0 unit)
  • ANAT 14 Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology (4.0 units)
  • PHYS 12 Introduction to Human Physiology (4.0 units)

These courses may be taken at CCSF; or equivalent courses may be taken at any accredited institution.

Classes begin every Fall semester. Refer to City College Class Schedule for specific dates and times.

First, you must successfully complete HLTH 84: Introduction to Interpreting in Healthcare (0.5 unit) course. Upon qualification, you will receive a letter of acceptance from the Program Coordinator with instructions to register for HLTH 80C and HLTH 80L.

For general enrollment at the college, you need to apply – click here – the process will route you through CCCApply, which is the state of California’s community college system. The Admissions & Records office is located in MUB 188, 50 Frida Kahlo Way. You must have a registration appointment ticket to register for classes. As a City College student, you will be given an email account, within the gmail system. Once a student, login your profile within the myRAM student portal to access your email for all instructor communications.

For more information see “How To Apply”

All languages are welcome! We do require 4 - 5 committed students who share the same language to make a learning and practice group. Thus far, the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate program has graduated students in 12 different languages since 1997. These include Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, Spanish, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. Each school year, we have two to four language groups represented. We do not offer the program for Sign Language interpreters as their certifications have different requirements.

While literacy is not required for verbal communication, it is difficult for someone who doesn't read or write in their language of service to look up words in dictionaries or glossaries and to do homework in classes. We encourage some level of ability to read and write in the language of service in order to successfully complete the program.

Yes, you can. However, in order to assist people who do not share the same culture, to better understand one another, we recommend a period of living abroad in a country where that language is spoken.

All classes are held at the Ocean Campus, 50 Frida Kahlo Way, Multi-Use Building (MUB).

Classes are offered evenings and on Saturdays.

City College of San Francisco classes are $46 per unit plus a student health and registration fee each semester. Community College fees are subject to change. You can expect to spend approximately $1000 total for the Certificate program (including books, health and background checks, and graduation fees). Additional fees may be required for internship sites. Financial aid is available to students who qualify (click here for financial aid information). Free tuition is available for City College students who have established California residency and live in San Francisco.

Upon completion of the HCI certificate program, complete a certificate petition form and email it to mbakhmach@ccsf.edu. Forms are also available in the Link Center, MUB 301.