Sign Language Translation and Interpretation

Read about educational requirements for sign language translators and interpreters, as well what to expect in terms of job growth and salary. Explore what students learn in undergraduate and graduate degree programs related to sign language translation and interpretation.

Is Sign Language Translation and Interpretation For Me?

Sign language interpreters help hearing-impaired individuals communicate with the rest of the hearing world. American Sign Language (ASL) uses hand motions, body language and finger spelling to communicate without verbalization. Because translators deal with written words and ASL is not a written language, 'sign language interpreter' is the proper term for someone who facilitates communication between signers and language speakers.

Career Options

As a sign language interpreter, you may work in an array of different settings, including courtrooms, conference centers, schools and hospitals. Additional opportunities may be found in deaf education, health care, social work or media communications.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interpreters and translators held approximately 49,060 jobs in 2013. Employment was projected to grow by 46% nationwide between 2012 and 2022, or much faster than average for all occupations. The ability for hearing impaired individuals to make calls using video services over an Internet connection is expected to have a positive impact of job growth. As reported by the BLS, the mean annual wage for interpreters and translators was $47,920 in May 2013 (

How Do I Work in Sign Language Translation and Interpretation?

Undergraduate Programs

Degree programs in sign language translation and interpretation are most common at the undergraduate level. If you're interested in a career as a sign language interpreter, you can start by pursuing an associate's or bachelor's degree. These programs include the study of ASL, deaf culture and the interpretation process. Coursework emphasizes problem-solving and listening skills and focuses on advanced methods of concentration.

Once enrolled, you'll learn about the theory and process of interpreting, deaf history and deaf-blind interpreting. You'll also find out how to interpret in community settings and study comparative linguistic analysis.

Graduate Programs

A Master of Education in Deaf Education or a Master of Arts in Teaching ASL might help you qualify for an instructional position. Programs at this level may include coursework in service learning, ASL conversation, cross cultural communication and research in interpretation. Professional certifications are available through the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

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