About the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate Program

Are you interested in bridging communication barriers and promoting health equity through language access? Learn the skills needed to become a certified healthcare interpreter or a qualified bilingual staff working in dual roles.

Health Care Interpreter Class

The Healthcare Interpreting (HCI) Certificate is a 17-unit program designed to prepare bilingual and bicultural students to become linguistically and culturally competent interpreters who can function effectively and efficiently in a variety of health and community settings. This is done through academic preparation, practical skills training, and service in community-based health settings. The certificate candidates learn basic medical knowledge, intercultural communication skills, interpreting skills, related code of ethics and interpreter standards of practice. 

The HCI Certificate Program has graduated students in 12 different languages since its inception in 1997. These include Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Mongolian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, and Tigrinya. Each cohort will have a mix of different language groups. We encourage all language communities to apply, especially, the languages of lesser diffusion. Students learn theory in lectures and practice in language labs with expert language coaches. This program is not for Sign Language interpreters as they have different certification requirements.

Explore Potential Careers

Healthcare interpreting requires a complex and intricate set of skills and has become recognized as a professional service by the industry. As an integral member of the healthcare team, the interpreter facilitates linguistic and cultural understanding among the patient/client, provider, and the healthcare system at large. Unless the healthcare professional speaks the patient’s language and understands their culture, interpreting service is critical to promoting optimal health outcomes. 

Interpreters may be hired as a staff interpreter or in a dual role capacity as qualified bilingual staff, such as a bilingual receptionist, medical assistant, nurse, research specialist, community liaison, and any other allied health roles. Often professional interpreters are working as freelancers or independent contractors. Work settings may include public and private health systems, educational institutions, community-based organizations, language service agencies, and other large and small enterprises. Interpreting services may be provided onsite or remotely via phone and video conferencing.

Program Information 

Admission Requirements

  1. Proficiency in English and an additional language (see below for language proficiency evaluation)
  2. Passing grade required in the introductory course - HLTH 84, Introduction to Healthcare Interpreting (0.5 unit)
  3. Submission of a written application distributed in HLTH 84
  4. Priority is given to those who have successfully completed at least three units of the following recommended courses (not required): BIO 106 (Human Biology and Physiology), BIO 112 (Intro to Human Physiology), and HIT 51 (Basic Medical Terminology).
  5. Assignment by the program coordinator to a specific language of service (LOS) group with a proposed semester of admission

Applicants will be reviewed by the HCI Coordinator for admissions to the program.  Languages are offered during different semesters. Please contact the HCI Coordinator (gtang@ccsf.edu) for more information. 

Language Proficiency

Student's language proficiency is evaluated using a rubric through conversation and other assessment activities with a language coach. Anyone scoring below a rating of “4” is not accepted into the program.  This scale is used to assess both English and the language of service (LOS).

Level 1: Very poor skills. Little or no fluency. It does not understand or follow the conversation.

Level 2: Poor to fair skills. Very heavy accent and problems with pronunciation. Hard to understand without much effort. Limited vocabulary and grammatical errors.

Level 3: Conversational skills only. Fairly simple but clear vocabulary. Understandable pronunciation and accent, but some difficulty with certain sounds. Some grammatical errors. Difficulty with fluency.  Limited understanding of the speaker.

Level 4: Very good skills. May have an accent but is completely understandable in the language. No or very minor grammatical errors. Very good fluency with few pauses. Understands the speaker easily.

Level 5: Excellent skills. Native speaker with an extensive vocabulary. Unobtrusive accent. Able to express abstract thoughts. Words flow fluently with no pauses or stutters. Understands the speaker completely.

Following the successful completion of HLTH 84 and receiving the acceptance letter from the HCI program coordinator, students may enroll in the first semester of the program which includes HLTH 80C and HLTH 80L. 

Fall Semester:
  • HLTH 80C Interpreting in Health Care Settings I (6.0 Units)
  • HLTH 80L Interpreting Lab I (0.5 Unit)
Spring Semester:
  • HLTH 81C Interpreting in Health Care Settings II (6.0 Units)
  • HLTH 81L Interpreting Lab II (0.5 Unit)
  • HLTH 82 Professional Skills for Healthcare Interpreters (3.0 Units)
  • HLTH 300 Work Experience in Health and Social Services (1 – 4 Units)

View Requirements in College Catalog

The minimum time for completion of this certificate is 2 semesters. Completion time will vary based on student preparation and the number of classes completed per semester.

Requirements for the Certificate of Achievement

Students who are multilingual must participate in their strongest language of service (LOS).

All courses must be completed within a two-year period. Any student who withdraws from the program after successfully completing HLTH 80C and HLTH 80L must submit an HCI program withdrawal form.

Any student wishing to take HLTH 81C, HLTH 81L, HLTH 82 and/or HLTH 300 12 months or more after completing HLTH 80C and HLTH 80L must submit a written reinstatement request to the program. 

Upon award of the Healthcare Interpreting Certificate, students may take HLTH 91N, Coaching Healthcare Interpreters. This is a 1.0 Unit onsite course that supports the development of lead interpreter skills and those who are interested in coaching emerging interpreters.

HLTH 91K, Language Access Strategies and Effective Collaboration with Interpreters is a 1.0 Unit online-only course ideal for those who wish to learn more about the topic. Bilingual skills are not required. Allied health professionals and health system managers are highly encouraged to attend. Graduates of the HCI Program are encouraged to participate to enhance their marketability in the field. This course is also a good refresher for current HCI Program students and those who are preparing to take the National Healthcare Interpreter Certification exams.

Transfer Options

The program coursework you complete at City College will satisfy lower-division requirements for related majors at several colleges and universities. 

Have questions about transfer? Visit the Transfer Center for help, transfer information, and/or to speak with college representatives.