What Is an Educational Interpreter?

Explore the career requirements for educational interpreters. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements and training options, licensure and certification to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does An Educational Interpreter Do?

Educational interpreters may help students who don't speak English learn the language and follow along with classroom lectures, or they may assist deaf or hearing-impaired students. Their job is to transmit information to the student in need in an accurate and efficient fashion, conveying as precise a translation as possible. They need to have strong communication skills and a native level of fluency in at least two languages. As well as translating conversational speech, educational interpreters need to be able to effectively translate technical language and abstract concepts to ensure the student receives the same quality of education as everyone else.

The following chart gives an overview of the educational interpreter career.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Spanish, American Sign Language or another language of your choice
Key Skills Fluency in at least two languages, converting speech and lesson plans, teaching
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required for interpreters who are also teachers
Job Growth (2014-24) 29% (much faster than average) for all interpreters and translators*
Median Salary (2015) $45,470 for educational interpreters and translators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Job Duties of an Educational Interpreter?

As an interpreter, your main responsibility is to convert spoken words from one language into another to provide communication services for non-English speaking individuals. Interpreters are frequently used in legal and medical fields, but if you're interested in working in a school setting, you can become an educational interpreter. In this type of environment, you'd translate lesson plans into another language for foreign students. As an educational interpreter, you'd integrate English language training into regular educational studies.

You might also choose to work as an educational interpreter for deaf or hearing-impaired students. In such a position, you'd be responsible for using sign language and other forms of communication to teach students who are unable to hear properly.

What Education Will I Need?

You must be able to speak two languages fluently in order to become a language interpreter. If you were not raised in a bilingual home, then you might want to consider completing a comprehensive degree program in a particular language that interests you. A foreign language program provides you with the ability to converse fluently in another language and translate from that language back to English. Many schools offer study-abroad programs that allow you to travel to a foreign country to learn the culture, in addition to your language studies.

If you're interested in becoming an interpreter for the hard-of-hearing, you might need to complete a program in sign language interpretation. Associate and bachelor's degree programs provide you with an understanding of American Sign Language (ASL), linguistic analysis and deaf communications. Some degree programs give you the opportunity to practice your communication and interpretation skills in teacher aide or intern positions with a local school. In addition to your language studies, you'll need training in interpretation, and depending on your career goal and state requirements, you might need to acquire teaching instruction.

Do I Need To Be Licensed?

If you provide educational interpretation in a teaching position, you'll need to acquire a state-mandated teaching license. Some states also regulate the educational interpreter profession for public schools, requiring licensure and regular completion of continuing education courses. Others maintain a registration database that lists the skill level of educational interpreters established by the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment examination (EIPA). Check with your state board of education to find out if you'll need to obtain specific training, evaluation or licensure.

What Certification is Available?

You can gain certification as an interpreter from a variety of organizations. The American Translators Association offers interpreter certification in 24 language combinations. You can also earn credentials based on your skill level, as well as an educational interpreting certificate, through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Some professional educational certifications utilize the EIPA examination to test for competency, though others, like the AG Bell Academy, provide their own exams for credentialing educational interpreters.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you have already attained the skills to become an interpreter or translator, there are many different fields that you can work in outside of education. Almost all government and social services require these professionals, who can be found working in community centres, courts, welfare services and more. If you have a certified knowledge of medical terminology, you could also work as a medical interpreter. Medical interpreters facilitate communication between patients and doctors and need to have a professional level of medical ethics and etiquette. For those who enjoy working with children, a bachelor's degree in a language is sufficient to become a teacher at the secondary school level, passing on your knowledge to the next generation.

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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