How to Understand ASL Certification Acronyms

It’s easy to be confused by myriad acronyms that designate certification in the title of a an ASL interpreter and even more difficult to understand which indication national certification and whether the interpreter is medically qualified. We break down


When hiring and contracting ASL interpreters and/or video remote interpreting agencies, it’s easy to be confused with the variety of acronyms and which ones mean an interpreter is nationally certified.  Below is a breakdown of the industry acronyms and which ones help set a medical interpreter apart from a general practitioner. Further, we’ll explore some of the most common training programs available for medical interpreters.

  • RID: The Registry Interpreters for the Deaf is the national organization that governs and oversees interpreter certification, maintenance of certification, grievances, professional development, and advocacy. When an interpreter says they are “certified”, they are referring to RID certification. RID began issuing certifications in 1972.

An interpreter with the RID certification demonstrates professional knowledge and skills that meet or exceed the minimum, historically strict, professional standards necessary to perform in a broad range of interpretation and transliteration assignments in three domains: general knowledge of the field, ethical decision making, and interpretation skills in both signed and spoken English and American Sign Language.

RID’s testing structure has morphed over the last 25 years. Each time a major change has been made, the acronym associated with the testing changes. Each of the acronyms below are still recognized by RID as being nationally certified.

  1. National Interpreter Certification (NIC): At one point the test results were broken down into three classifications but that no longer exists; interpreters, however, still identify their classification if they were awarded any of the NIC levels below:
    • Generalist (2005 – present)
    • Advanced (2005 – 2001)
    • Master (2005 – 2011)
  1. Certificate of Interpretation or Certificate of Transliteration (CI/CT): Prior to the NIC exam, interpreters could earn a Certificate of Interpretation (CI or a Certificate of Transliteration (CT. These individual tests are no longer offered but the certifications are still honored by RID (1998-2005)
  2. Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L): Holders of this specialist certification have demonstrated specialized knowledge of legal settings and greater familiarity with language used in the legal system. (1998 – present) (
  3. Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI): Holders of this certification are deaf or hard of hearing and have demonstrated knowledge and understanding of interpreting, deafness, the Deaf community, and Deaf culture. Holders have specialized training and/or experience in the use of gesture, mime, props, drawings and other tools to enhance communication. Holders possess native or near-native fluency in American Sign Language and are recommended for a broad range of assignments where an interpreter who is deaf or hard-of-hearing would be beneficial. (
  1. Comprehensive Skills Certificate (CSC): The CSC was offered from 1972 through 1988. This test is no longer offered, but the certification is still honored by RID (1972-1988).

Beyond certifications awarded by RID, there are training programs, internships, medical intensive workshops, and practicums that provide an interpreter with in-depth knowledge of a particular environment. It is important to note that a certificate of completion or participation does not mean “certified” according to RID. Currently, on a nationally recognized level, a certification does not exist for medical interpreters. The only specialty environment, as noted above, is a legal certificate. RID is currently exploring what it might take to offer a certification in medical interpreting.

A few medical interpreting certificates and programs of note are:

  • Certificate in Healthcare Interpreting (CHI): This is a year-long program taught by Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute of the Deaf in Rochester, NY. There is a total of 160 hours of classroom and online instruction that equips interpreters with extensive medical interpreting knowledge, practice, and application strategies.
  • CATIE Center: The CATIE Center is housed at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN and they are part of a national consortium that focuses on medical interpreting skills development. Interpreters can participate in several of their workshops, immersions, fellowships, and their national symposium on healthcare interpreting. While they do not award a certificate, medical interpreters may highlight their participation in the CATIE Center’s programming.
  • Mental Health Interpreter Training (MHIT): Held annually in Montgomery, Alabama, MHIT is week long, 40-hour intensive mental health interpreter training program. This training helps equip mental health interpreters with tools, strategies, and knowledge to make them successful members of the mental health team.
  • University of California, San Diego, Oncology Training: This 6-month, training program was once offered by the Moore Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), however, they now provide the training modules for free on their website. At one point during the program’s development interpreters were able to participate and receive a certificate.
  • BA, MA, PhD: Interpreters often receive their training in two-year and four-year programs. Additionally, an interpreter can earn a Masters Degree and a PhD in interpreting, but none of these programs are specific to medical interpreting.

As you can see, ASL interpreters can have several letters that follow their name, multiple ways they can strengthen their medical interpreting knowledge and skill, and several collegiate avenues to pursue. An interpreter can be nationally certified by RID and have certificates in medical interpreting, but those two classifications are not interchangeable. All hiring entities should require interpreters to have national certification (in good standing) and extensive medical interpreting experience and training. Now that we have outlined some of the most popular avenues to further an interpreter’s medical training, feel free to ask your interpreters about their training and qualifications; your patients will thank you.

Site translation by Certified Deaf Interpreter Steven Stubbs. 




2018-12-05T22:05:20+00:00August 11th, 2015|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment

jQuery( document ).ready( function() { var ajaxurl = ''; if ( 0 < jQuery( '.fusion-login-nonce' ).length ) { jQuery.get( ajaxurl, { 'action': 'fusion_login_nonce' }, function( response ) { jQuery( '.fusion-login-nonce' ).html( response ); }); } });