A Quick Guide on How to Become a Medical Translator [Quick Guide]

a quick guide on how to become a medical translator [quick guide]

Medical translation plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between different languages in the life science industry. It involves translating vital medical terminology, documents, and important conversations. 

As a highly specialized form of scientific and technical translation, medical translation encompasses all aspects of healthcare. This includes anything from translating content related to the prevention and treatment of diseases to pharmaceutical content to clinical trials. 

In other words, medical translation serves as a link, connecting people to important healthcare information. 

A worldwide study by the CSA Research Institute found demand for translation services in the healthcare sector surged 49% in 2020. That said, 2020 was the year COVID-19 emerged and affected people around the world.

In this article, we will provide an overview of medical translation and how to become a medical translator.

What is medical translation?

Medical translation is the process of translating texts in the medical and pharmaceutical industries from one language to another. 

For example, translating medical documents such as patient files or records, medical journals, and medical device instructions are among the common examples of medical translation.

Types of medical documents

There are many types of medical documents and texts that require translation. 

Here are a few examples of those documents and projects:

How to become a medical translator

Many people who work as medical translators often have experience in the medical or pharmaceutical field. However, some specialize in this field without having a medical background. 

To become a competent medical translator, consider specializing in a particular area or field. Concentrate your efforts on enhancing your knowledge and abilities in that area. 

That said, if you’re just starting out, you may explore translating content for different medical and scientific fields.

For translators coming from a medical background or education, you may explore the field you specialize in as a medical doctor, nurse, or medical professional. From there, you can decide which scientific area works best for you.

Here are a few tips to help you become a medical translator. 

  • Fluency in 2 languages 

To become a translator, you must be fluent in at least 2 languages. Medical translation is no exception. 

Most medical translators translate into their mother tongue, while others may translate from and into their mother language.

As a medical translator, you should work on improving your grammar and general vocabulary skills to ensure accurate and effective translation.

  • Familiarity with medical jargon

To become a proficient medical translator, it is important to have a strong grasp of medical terminology and acronyms. 

This includes being able to understand scientific content and medical jargon in both languages. 

  • Get certified in medical translation 

It may be helpful to consider obtaining a translation certificate to become a certified translator if you are interested in becoming a medical translator. 

The type of certification required can vary depending on the organization or company you work for and the country you’re working in. 

In some cases, individuals pursuing a career in medical translation may need to complete a medical interpreter course or specialized translator training.

  • Be a stellar researcher

When translating technical content like medical content, translators need to be great researchers. Especially those who don’t come from a medical background and need to understand the medical terminology used in the source and target languages. 

  • Take translation courses 

There are many specialized translation courses available for those who wish to become medical translators. 

Not only will these courses help you with the translation process itself, but also expose you to different types and areas of translation.

If you’re taking a specialized medical translation course, it may provide you with experience in translating different types of medical documents. 

  • Begin with an entry-level position

To begin your career and gain hands-on experience as a medical translator, you may need to apply for an entry-level position, preferably in a translation agency or a medical or pharmaceutical company. 

Working in an entry-level position can be a powerful interim step in your career development. 

Your first career-related job helps you gain a better understanding of the industry, make professional connections, and acquire and develop skills.

  • Consider freelancing as a medical translator

If you’re coming from a medical or scientific background, it might be hard to begin with an entry-level job. An alternative is to work with translation companies or agencies as a freelancer. 

Your medical and scientific expertise coupled with your translation experience can give you the push needed to become a medical translator

Medical translators vs medical interpreters

When talking about medical translation, it’s important to note that there are medical translators and medical interpreters. Naturally, there’s an overlap between the two. But there are differences too.

Medical translators frequently encounter formal aspects of the medical field like medical papers, files, and documents. 

That said, they can also conduct research online, refer to medical journals or papers, or even call doctors or medical professionals to ask questions. 

On the other hand, medical interpreters often act as links between patients and doctors who speak different languages. Similarly, they may work for doctors and other professionals during medical and pharmaceutical conferences. 

Similar to medical translators, interpreters must be familiar with medical terminology and jargon. 

Unlike medical translators, medical interpreters work in real time, which means they have to rely solely on their memory when facilitating communication.

Interpreters not only work with what they hear but also pay attention to verbal cues, body language, and visual context. Meanwhile, translators work only with the text in the document before them.

In some countries, to become a medical interpreter, you may need to sit for an exam or perform a specific number of training hours to earn your medical interpreter certificate.


If you’re a generalist translator, that is someone who works in different translation fields, you may consider becoming a medical translator. 

Alternatively, if you’re a medical professional, doctor, pharmacist, or dentist, you’re halfway there with your medical knowledge.

Regardless of your background, if you want to become a medical translator, following the above-mentioned steps and tips will set you on the right track to achieving your goal.