Information about court interpreter positions

Get information about recruitment, screening, certification, and requirements for applicants interested in court interpreter positions.

Thank you for your interest in working with the Office of Court Interpreter Services (OCIS) as a per diem court interpreter. Here is some general information that will help you become acquainted with policies regarding recruitment, screening and applying to work as a per diem court interpreter.

General overview

Chapter 221C of the General Laws of Massachusetts was added on December 23, 1986, creating a court interpreter office for the Trial Court that guarantees and protects the rights of non-English speakers in legal proceedings by providing them with qualified court interpreters. OCIS is responsible for the recruitment, training and certification of its staff and per diem court interpreters, and for assigning these interpreters to the Massachusetts courts who request them.

Court interpreters must possess a superior level of linguistic proficiency and an understanding of the ethical standards that govern their work. At a practical level, working as a freelance or per diem court interpreter also demands the ability to cope with changes in assignments and last minute requests. Cases that need interpreters may get dismissed (cancelled) and continued (postponed), often with little or no advance notice to OCIS or the interpreter. Likewise, courts may experience a sudden need for interpreters at any given moment. In both cases, OCIS works closely with its pool of interpreters and the courts to provide quality interpreter services for those who need it throughout their legal process. Due to the ever-changing nature of court business, OCIS cannot guarantee or predict the number of assignments any interpreter will receive at any given time.

Recruitment and screening of applicants

OCIS regularly recruits new interpreters for languages needed throughout MA’s various geographical areas. Based on documented need, OCIS opens recruitment by reviewing Application Questionnaires on file. Whenever necessary, OCIS will also actively seek potentially-qualified applicants by contacting academic institutions, language-specific organizations, interpreter and translator associations or programs, etc.

Potentially-qualified applicants are screened for their linguistic proficiency, professional experience and academic background. A preliminary review of the applicant’s qualifications will determine if he/she meets the minimum requirements.

Minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent college degree from the applicant’s country. (A copy of credit transcripts or diploma will be required at the time of the interview.) Some exceptions may apply only for some lesser-used languages.
  • Advanced level of proficiency in both English and the other language. This means, proficiency that reflects college-level instruction at the oral and written level. The candidate must possess superior academic knowledge of both languages to pass a written screening exam that includes grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and translation exercises. Exceptions may apply for some lesser-used languages.
  • Prior interpreting and translating experience and/or training are not required, but are highly desirable and will receive preference in recruitment.

Certification of OCIS interpreters

OCIS is the only institution with the authority to grant state certification for Trial Court interpreters in Massachusetts. OCIS offers certification only to interpreters who have completed all pre-certification requirements. For all languages, certification requires:

  • A minimum of one year of service with OCIS (Some exceptions may apply.);
  • Passing grade on the written exam developed by the National Center for State Court’s Consortium for Language Access;
  • Assessment by OCIS of the interpreter’s compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct (Section 4:00 of the Standards and Procedures, see Additional Resources below)
  • An observation of the interpreter in Court.
  • For some languages the certification process includes an oral exam that tests the interpreter’s level of skills in Simultaneous and Consecutive interpretation, and Sight Translation (definitions in Section 2:00 of the Standards and Procedures, see Additional Resources below).
  • Interpreters in languages for which there is no oral exam available at the moment will apply for certification by submitting required documentation that demonstrates compliance with a set of standard criteria. For more detailed information, please review Section 5:00 of the Standards and Procedures (see Additional Resources below).

For information regarding the profession of court interpreting, please visit the sites of interpreter organizations, such as the Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators,

Additional Resources for Certification of OCIS interpreters