Schools for Sign Language Interpreters

Get info on finding an accredited school that offers American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation programs, and check the requirements for becoming a registered interpreter. Explore the curricula for undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sign language interpretation. Check the availability of online programs in this field. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

If you are interested in becoming an ASL interpreter or learning more about ASL, there are various degree paths which are open to you. To find out which path is right for you, as well as where programs are offered and what they comprise, take a look at the following article.

Do I Need to Attend a Special School to Become a Sign Language Interpreter?

By and large, the schools offering American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter programs are traditional postsecondary schools. They offer ASL interpreter programs through the behavior sciences department, human services department, special education department or College of Education, depending on the school's preference. At these colleges and universities, ASL study is also available in freestanding courses, reports the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA).

What Organizations Approve Interpreter Programs?

The Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education offers an online database of interpreter programs and schools that have sought and received accreditation. The list is somewhat limited, but more schools are applying for accreditation, according to the Commission.

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is a national organization of professional facilitators who enable and enhance the communication process between deaf and hearing people. RID maintains an online database of approved schools that offer educational programs leading to a certificate or a degree as an ASL interpreter.

Completion of an ASL interpreter program from an approved school may qualify you to sit for a national interpreter certification examination. These examinations are administered jointly by the RID and the National Association of the Deaf. Certification lasts four years, and you'll have to complete a specified number of continuing education units in order to maintain or renew it.

What Sort of Degrees Are Available?

Community colleges may offer you the opportunity to earn a certificate or an associate's degree. Certificate programs are sometimes intended just for your familiarization with ASL, in order to help you communicate with deaf people. At other schools, if you already hold a bachelor's degree or have some ASL experience, a certificate program may qualify you to sit for a state-level interpreter certification examination. An associate's degree program also may prepare you to sit for a state certification exam or to continue on in pursuit of a bachelor's degree.

At schools offering a bachelor's degree in interpretation, you'll typically pursue foundation courses, such as manual alphabet, finger spelling, facial expression, gestures, deaf culture and ethics. In addition, you'll usually be required to complete a minimum of one internship at an approved off-campus facility along with a practicum. Graduation may qualify you to sit for the national interpreter certification examination.

A few schools offer a program leading to a master's degree in interpretation. You may qualify for this program if you hold a 2- or 4-year degree in interpreting that includes coursework in ASL foundations, field experience and skills courses. You may also qualify if you hold a bachelor's degree in a related concentration and hold national certification.

There is at least one school that offers a program leading to a Master of Arts in Interpretation, for which you may qualify even if you're deaf. The 2-3 year program contains an internship, guided research projects and practicums, along with a great deal of student-teacher and student-student interaction.

Which Schools Offer Certificate Programs in ASL Interpreting?

Certificate programs are readily available in ASL interpreting at a number of institutions. The following are a select few:

  • College of DuPage delivers an American Sign Language Interpreting Advanced Certificate program
  • Moraine Valley Community College has a Sign Language Interpretation Certificate program
  • John A. Logan College offers an ASL/Deaf Studies Certificate program

Which Schools Offer Associate's Degree Programs in ASL Interpreting?

Associate's degree programs in ASL interpreting are also common, with a couple of them listed below:

  • Oakland Community College has a Sign Language Interpreter Associate in Applied Science degree program
  • Portland Community College provides an Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language Interpretation degree program
  • John A. Logan College houses an Associate in Applied Science in ASL/Deaf Studies degree program

Which Schools Offer Bachelor's Degree Programs in ASL Interpreting?

Numerous schools possess ASL interpreting bachelor's degree programs, including the ones below:

  • University of North Colorado hosts an ASL-English Interpretation Bachelor of Art degree program
  • Maryville College delivers a Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language-English Interpreting degree program
  • West Oregon University has a Bachelor of Arts/Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting degree program

Which Schools Offer Master's Degree Programs in ASL Interpreting?

At the graduate levels, students have an opportunity to earn a master's degree in ASL interpreting or a related field. Examples of some program are:

  • University of North Florida houses a Master of Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting degree program
  • University of North Colorado offers a Teaching American Sign Language Master of Arts degree program
  • West Oregon University has a Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies degree program

Are There Online Programs Available?

Some schools offer bachelor's and master's programs that can be completed partially online. These programs are hybrids, in that a certain amount of on-campus time is required for completion. Online components may combine DVD instruction, self-assessment labs and online discussion. On-campus or in-person sections can contain practicums or internships that can last a weekend or an extended length of time throughout a semester or session.

You may be interested in an entirely online educational interpreter professional certificate program. You may qualify for such a program if you hold at least an associate's degree in ASL interpretation and have previous work experience as an interpreter.

Can I Study ASL if My Current College Doesn't Offer an Interpreter Program?

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) at many colleges and universities, even those without an interpretation program. Sometimes, American Sign Language classes may satisfy the college's foreign language requirement. Though they may not provide you with the training to become a sign language interpreter, they may serve as a good preparation for such training.

Available at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate levels, you have plenty of options when choosing an education program in ASL interpreting. Certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs will teach you the fundamentals of ASL and hone your understanding of it, while master's degree programs are meant to build on previous knowledge to prepare you for a further professional career.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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