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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.

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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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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
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    • Undergraduate applicants must be a high school graduate or have completed GED and completed some college. Master's degree applicants must have a bachelor's or higher.
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  • School locations:
    • Kentucky (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Eastern Kentucky University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
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    • New Hampshire (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of New Hampshire include:
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
      • Communication Studies
      • English Language and Literature
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    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northeastern University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework, Diploma
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
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      • Journalism
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    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Indiana University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
      • Communication Studies
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Journalism

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics