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.

What Careers Are Possible in the Sign Language Field?

Sign language is used to communicate with individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. It is a recognized language, and those who are fluent in sign language have a number of careers to choose from in which their sign language skills can be utilized or be an asset. These professions include sign language interpreter, speech-language pathologist and postsecondary teacher.

Sign language interpreters convert spoken or written words into sign language so that those who are deaf or hearing impaired can access the information. A speech-language pathologist works with those who may have difficulties producing certain sounds or letters, or who have swallowing issues. Some of their clients may benefit from sign language as a means of communication because of their difficulties enunciating certain sounds and words. Postsecondary sign language teachers use curriculum guidelines to instruct students in sign language courses.

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 doctoral degree
Education Field of StudySign 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 (2014-2024)29% (for all interpreters and translators)* 21%* 9%-13%***
Median Salary (2015) $37,283 (as of 2017)** $73,410* $61,380***

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

What Career Options Are 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, require bachelor's degrees.

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 earned a median annual salary of $44,190 as of May 2015. Some of the highest paying industries for interpreters and translators were agricultural, engineering and related services, the federal government and office administration services.

Other careers that teach and utilize sign language include speech-language pathologists and postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers. Their respective median salaries as of 2015 were $73,410 (per the BLS) and $61,380 (per O*NET OnLine) .

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Special education teachers and adult literacy teachers share some common duties with those who work in the sign language field. Special education teachers and adult literacy teachers may have to modify material in order to help their students understand and process the information. They work with students who may have a learning disability, a developmental disability, or may speak a different native language at home. This work is similar to the work that professionals using sign language do because their job is to find a way to bridge the communication gap so that the student understands the material. Special education teachers need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. Adult literacy teachers need a bachelor's degree; teaching experience is preferred by many employers.

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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