Deaf Interpreter: Certification and Training Program Info

Deaf interpreter programs are only offered to deaf persons and may be difficult to find. Hearing individuals who want to interpret for the deaf may consider associate and bachelor's degree programs in sign language interpretation. Upon completing training, they can take interpreter certification tests and search for employment.

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Essential Information

Deaf interpreter training programs are designed for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals who are interested in becoming interpreters. These individuals can find training and certification programs available through organizations like the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). Hearing persons who are interested in completing a training program to become interpreters should consider enrolling in an associate or bachelor's degree program in sign language interpretation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are often required to have bachelor's degrees, though this is not always the case.


Associate Degree Sign Language Interpretation

Students in an associate degree program are required become proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). They study fundaments of ASL that include fingerspelling, specialized vocabulary, body language and grammar. Upon learning these basics, students may learn to interpret dialogues, idioms, music, stories and other expressions. They also often learn to teach deaf people how to translate signs into speech.

Students improve their communicative abilities by practicing focused listening, text analysis, paraphrasing, filtering out distractions, providing feedback and assessing the clarity of interpretation. They also develop necessary qualities like flexibility, responsibility, respectfulness, professionalism and ethical consciousness. Programs usually incorporate a practicum and/or an internship component that allows students to practice interpretation in various medical, legal, educational and religious settings.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants usually need to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent, but some community colleges allow high school students to enroll in classes. To study advanced interpretation topics, students must complete fundamental ASL courses.

Course Topics

Students need to complete some general education courses. Laboratory courses that involve the recording and analysis of interpretation performances are incorporated into the curriculum. Courses that may be required are:

  • Hearing anatomy and physiology
  • Exact English signing
  • Transliteration
  • Ethics of interpretation
  • Sign to voice
  • ASL conversation
  • ASL theatre

Popular Career Options

Interpreters can find work in a number of fields Certified interpreters may be employed by:

  • Schools
  • Theaters
  • Health care facilities
  • Legal facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Up until 2012, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) permits graduates of an associate degree program to take the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) test, but as of 2012, a bachelor's degree is necessary (www.rid.org). The NIC exam includes a written test and an interpretation test. Certification is maintained through periodic continuing education classes. Individual states may also have their own credentialing exams that qualify individuals to work.


Bachelor's Degree in Sign Language Interpretation

Completion of a bachelor's degree program in sign language interpretation may result in a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. The curriculums are very similar, but the B.A. emphasizes topics such as the deaf community culture, history, literature and film while the B.S. typically concentrates more on theory and specialized interpretation techniques.

Some bachelor's degree programs teach the same fundamental sign language interpretation skills as associate degree programs, but they require more general education courses and offer a greater variety of sign language electives. Other programs are designed to build upon the knowledge gained in an associate degree program, and they offer a different set of courses. Extended sign language interpretation training improves students' interpretation capabilities, boosts their confidence and increases their chances of being hired.

Education Prerequisites

It is necessary that applicants have at least earned a high school diploma or equivalent, but some programs may require that they have also earned their associate degree in sign language interpretation. An ASL entrance exam may also be necessary.

Course Topics

Bachelor's degree programs can include rigorous practicum, internship and service learning components. Courses can include advanced subjects like:

  • Interactive interpreting
  • Deaf culture literature and film
  • Healthcare interpreting
  • Educational interpreting
  • Deaf-blind interpreting
  • Advanced ASL

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for interpreters and translators was $43,300 in May 2010 (www.bls.gov). However, earnings varied by geographic region, interpretation specialty and industry. In 2008, interpreters and translators as a whole held over 50,000 jobs nation-wide, and the growth of this field is expected to grow 22% between 2008 and 2018. However, this may more directly reflect the need for foreign language translators as more non-English-speaking individuals immigrate to the U.S.

Continuing Education

Sign language interpreters with a bachelor's degree, certification and work experience could apply to a master's degree program in interpreting studies. These programs concentrate on topics such as theory, practical applications, teaching techniques, professionalism and ethics.

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Sign Language Interpreter: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Other Schools:

  • 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
      • Communication Studies
      • Digital, Radio, and Television Communication
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
      • Graphic Communications
      • Journalism
      • Public Relations and Advertising
  • School locations:
    • 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
  • School locations:
    • 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
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Valdosta State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
      • Communication Studies
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
      • Communication Studies
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
  • School locations:
    • Oklahoma (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Oklahoma State University include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgia Perimeter College include:
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
  • School locations:
    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Milwaukee Area Technical College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Communications and Journalism
      • American Sign Language - ASL
        • Sign Language Interpretation
      • Communication Technology
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • Graphic Communications

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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