American Sign Language Interpreter Salary and Career Facts

American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters help deaf or hearing-impaired individuals communicate with the hearing community. Keep reading to learn more about degree programs, job options and potential wages in this field, along with the employment outlook for interpreters. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an American Sign Language Interpreter?

American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters help convert spoken language to hand-sign signals so that the hearing impaired can communicate with the hearing. They must be fluent in at least two languages, including English. They also must be able to interpret quickly and correctly, either simultaneously (as words are spoken) and/or consecutively (after several words have been said). The table below will provide some additional details about careers in this field:

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study American Sign Language, Interpretation
Key Responsibilities Help individuals who cannot hear communicate with others using hand signals
Licensure Requirements Licensure not necessary, but some employers may have their own certification requirements
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 29% (for all interpreters and translators)
Median Salary (2017)** $37,284

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

What Does an American Sign Language Interpreter Do?

An ASL interpreter bridges the communication gap between individuals who can hear and those who cannot. Using hand signals, body language and other techniques, a sign language interpreter can show those who can't hear what somebody is saying. A sign language interpreter may also be able to understand the language of those who are deaf; he or she can then share that information with others.

How Do I Get My Education?

You might consider earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in American Sign Language or sign language interpreting. In these programs, you'll study sign language techniques, the culture of the deaf community and oral interpretation. You may need to take some general education courses, like English composition or algebra. Most associate's and bachelor's programs require completion of an internship or an experiential learning course.

If you've already earned a bachelor's degree in this field, you might pursue a master's degree in education interpretation or interpretation. Master's programs are often more specialized than undergraduate programs; you could study sign language and interpretation techniques that are used in a medical, business or special education setting. You'll usually need to complete an internship in order to earn a master's degree.

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf offers the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) credential to individuals who've completed at least an associate's program. You'll need to take three exams that test your interpretation knowledge, performance level and decision-making skills in order to receive the NIC credential. Certification requirements vary by employer; earning certification may lead to an increase in employment opportunities.

Is There a Demand for Interpreters?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the number of jobs for interpreters and translators would increase by 29% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The main factor behind the growth in demand for ASL interpreters was the increased use of video relay systems, which allowed communication between individuals over the Internet.

How Much Could I Be Paid?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all interpreters and translators was $44,190 in 2015. PayScale.com notes that sign language interpreters earned a median salary of $37,284 as of January 2017.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include career and technical education teachers, high school teachers and special education teachers. Career and technical education teachers lead vocational subject classes; topics include auto repair. High school teachers prepare lesson plans in basic subjects like English and math, and help prepare their students for post-secondary endeavors. Special education teachers work with students with disabilities to teach them basic subjects and skills. All fields require a bachelor's degree.

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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