American Sign Language Schools with Program Information
American Sign Language (ASL) schools educate students about the culture and communication of the deaf community. Interpreters need certification and special training, so students should determine their career goals before selecting a program that fits their needs.
How to Select an American Sign Language School
ASL training options start at the certificate level and span through the master's degree level. Students should look for the program that fits their specific goal. For example, a certificate or associate's degree program won't qualify its graduates for certification. Master's degree programs are rare, and they can prepare students for advanced teaching positions. Most ASL teachers and interpreters hold a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Beginning on July 1, 2012, anyone taking the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) exam to become a certified ASL interpreter through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) will be required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in any field, in addition to demonstrating ASL proficiency through examination (www.rid.org). ASL students wishing to pursue interpreting or teaching should investigate how well a school's program meets federal and state requirements for certification.
In addition to assessing the curriculum, applicants may want to evaluate the school's extracurricular seminars and studies related to the deaf community. Many ASL programs offer film screenings, performances, lectures, seminars or opportunities to study abroad.
American Sign Language Program Overview
Associate's Degrees in ASL
Associate's degree programs can't exclusively prepare a student to become an interpreter, but these undergraduate options do provide an introduction to the deaf community and ASL. They may be appropriate for someone with a personal interest in ASL or who wants to add ASL skills to other existing professional qualifications. The curriculum spans about two years and includes general education requirements. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required for entry, and some programs require applicants to have an elementary knowledge of ASL.
Bachelor's Degree in ASL
ASL is available as both a major and a minor at the bachelor's level of study. Some programs offer interpreting training, while others do not. Students need to graduate, which may involve completing a practicum, and gain experience to take the NIC exam. Classes teach fingerspelling, deaf education, language development and conversational ASL.
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in ASL
Post-baccalaureate courses of study are for those who already hold a bachelor's degree and want to learn about ASL. A program's specialty should be considered; some specifically teach interpretation, while others focus instead on language and culture. Prior knowledge of ASL is not always necessary for admission. Students can earn a certificate in approximately two years.
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