What Are the Top Careers in the Sign Language Field?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the sign language field. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and licensure information. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Sign language interpreters help expedite communication between the deaf and the hearing in a variety of settings through the use of hand and body language translations. If you'd like to learn more about sign language career opportunities, training and certification, read further.

Sign Language Interpreter Speech-Language Pathologist Postsecondary Foreign Language and Literature Teacher
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Master's degree, along with supervised clinical work Master's or doctorate degree
Education Field of Study Sign language interpretation, English, foreign language Speech language pathology, communications American Sign Language, foreign language
Key Responsibilities Convert spoken language into sign language using techniques such as signing, lip reading, body language and cued speech Evaluate and determine speech issues, identify individual treatment options, teach alternate communication methods Create educational materials; evaluate students' homework; help students meet graduation requirements
Certification/Licensure Certification is optional All states require that speech-language pathologists be licensed Teacher certification/licensure is required
Job Growth (2012-2022) 46%* 19%* 15%-21%*
Average Salary (2014) $36,103 (2015 median salary)** $74,900* $67,910*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Career Options Area Available With My Sign Language Skills?

If you're seeking a career as a sign language interpreter, you may work at conferences or public gatherings translating speeches and other information. Or, you could work in the medical, legal and mental health fields as an interpreter, although additional training or certifications may be required. Television or theater productions regularly need interpreters to translate for viewers. Also, opportunities exist for work at grade schools and universities, technical fields and business settings.

What Do I Need to Learn?

An associate's degree in sign language interpreting is necessary to work as an interpreter. If you'd like to become certified in American Sign Language (ASL), be aware that the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), which awards the ASL credential, will require bachelor's degrees as of February 2015.

You'll find that a typical associate's degree program in sign language might include courses in interactive interpreting, deaf history and the deaf community, and conversational American Sign Language. Bachelor's degree programs might cover courses such as deaf culture, linguistics, voice registers, ASL morphology, sign language structure and ASL teaching. Also, you might participate in seminars and workshops.

Can I Become Certified?

After you have acquired substantial experience in interpreting, you can pursue professional certification, such as the National Interpreter Certification. The National Association of the Deaf and RID offer you opportunities for networking and to participate in continuing education workshops and programs. Also, RID may award certification even if you don't have a formal degree. In these cases, you'll need to have several years of experience and some sign language education which didn't necessarily result in a degree.

How Much Money Do Interpreters Earn?

Some ASL interpreters may be salaried employees, while others are paid hourly on a freelance basis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that interpreters and translators who were employed in scientific and technical industries earned an average annual salary of $56,530 in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS found that interpreters who worked in junior colleges were paid an average of $59,300 a year, while local government interpreters received $49,910 per year.

Other careers that teach and utilize sign language include speech-language pathologists and postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers. Their respective average salaries as of 2014 were $74,900 and $67,910, per the BLS.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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