Be an American Sign Language Interpreter: Salary and Career Info
American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters use ASL signs, finger spelling, and body language to enable communication between the deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing communities. ASL interpreters may find work in a variety of settings, such as schools, health care facilities, and businesses.
Salary Information for ASL Interpreters
In May 2012, translators and interpreters across all fields, including ASL and foreign language translators and interpreters, earned an average annual income of $53,410, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports (www.bls.gov). Elementary and high schools, medical facilities, and local government agencies were among the largest employers of interpreters.
Earnings as an ASL interpreter largely depend on one's level of experience and place of work. In May 2012, the BLS reported that the highest paid interpreters and translators worked for consulting services, computer systems design companies, and the federal government. Translators and interpreters working as consultants earned an annual average income of $109,930, and interpreters and translators in elementary and high schools earned an average annual income of $41,560, per the BLS in 2012.
Career Information for ASL Interpreters
Many ASL interpreters get their start in informal ways, such as conversations with deaf or hearing-impaired individuals. Fluency in English and ASL is required, though it is not always enough to obtain a position. Interpreters must be clear, expressive communicators who are sensitive to the cultures and institutions in which they work. They must accurately and objectively convey the meaning and emotion of what they interpret.
Education Requirements for ASL Interpreters
ASL interpreters typically have at least a bachelor's degree. Specialized certificate and degree programs in ASL interpretation are available from community colleges and universities. Bachelor's degree programs may incorporate courses in deaf culture along with sign language training.
It takes time and experience to gain the skills required to become a qualified ASL interpreter. Further education, internships, and volunteer work are ways of improving fluency and communication skills. Certification through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf is a means of demonstrating competence as an ASL interpreter (www.rid.org).
Job Outlook for ASL Interpreters
According to the BLS, translator and interpreter jobs should grow rapidly due to the expansion of video relay service and video remote interpreting technologies. These technologies allow real-time ASL translation through video calling over high-speed Internet connections. Employment opportunities can be found in educational and religious institutions as well as social service, community and arts organizations. More experienced interpreters may establish careers in legal or medical interpretation.
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