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How to Become a Sign Language Interpreter: Helping Others to Interact with the World

As the nation becomes increasingly sensitive to the challenges faced by deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and as it becomes more appreciative of their talents and abilities, we will become increasingly motivated to find ways to make sure that deaf people can integrate more seamlessly into society. Sign language interpreters, who provide translation services between deaf people to those who can hear, play a vital role in this process. These interpreters must have a strong mastery of American Sign Language (ASL) as well as English, and their job is to communicate information without altering it. Sign language interpreters are needed in a wide variety of locations, including schools, courts, hospitals, and televised media, where they are responsible for communicating spoken conversations to viewing audiences. If this sounds interesting to you, keep reading in order to learn more about how to become a sign language interpreter.

Sign Language Interpreter Degree Requirements

According to the Bureau Labor Statistics, “although interpreters and translators typically need a bachelor’s degree, the most important requirement is that they be fluent in English and at least one other language. Many complete job-specific training programs.” Training in ASL can be acquired through colleges, universities, agencies serving deaf communities and through adult education programs.

In addition to this education, those hoping to become interpreters must often attain certification through the National Association of the Deaf or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. There are three types of certification: standard, advanced or master National Interpreter Certification (NIC). Certification opens up more career opportunities and can accelerate or facilitate professional advancement. Requirements for certification and employment in this field vary by state.

Becoming a Sign Language Interpreter: Career Outlook

Interpreters must convey and communicate often complex and nuanced thoughts, ideas and feelings in an accurate manner while not imposing their own ideas. There are a range of subfields within this profession. For example, some people specialize in interpreting spoken words for individuals who read lips rather than signing, while others conduct tactile signing for people who are both deaf and blind. Some interpreters work for interpreting services while others work on a freelance basis.

By 2020, this field will grow by 42%, a rate that is far faster than the average for professions in the economy. The BLS reports that ASL translator and interpreter jobs should grow rapidly, “due to the expansion of video relay service and video remote interpreting technologies. These technologies allow real-time ASL translation through video calling over high-speed Internet connections.”

The most likely areas of employment include educational and religious institutions, social services, community and artistic organizations, and in legal or medical settings. The typical sign language interpreter can expect to earn about $44,160, though as the field expands, there may be a delay in terms of the number of qualified people, which would likely drive up average wages. If working as an American Sign Language sounds like an interesting career for you, you can discover more about how to become a sign language interpreter by exploring sign language programs on our site today.

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