Online Sign Language Certification Information
American Sign Language (ASL) training may be obtained through online courses or degree programs. Preferred level and method of instruction to prefer for certification may vary depending on individual goals and current level of knowledge in the field.
Individuals have a variety of reasons for enrolling in online ASL courses including, gaining the ability to communicate with friends and family that are deaf or hard of hearing, increasing their marketable skill set for potential career advancement and earning academic credits to become eligible for entry into an interpreter program, eventually leading to national certification. Sign language courses taught in a classroom provide face-to-face instruction as an effective method for learning a new language.
However, a number of institutions have been responding to the need for interpreters by adding online sign language courses and certification for those who may be unable to attend on-campus classes. Distance-learning courses provide the opportunity to self-pace and are often taught through webcam meetings and online learning systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there is not an industry standard certification (www.bls.gov). Individuals may find certification through organizations like the American Translators Association (ATA), which requires experience and education in sign language as a requirement to become certified (www.atanet.org).
Online individual courses, as well as associate's, bachelor's and master's programs for sign language and interpretation are available for students with limited time to commute to campus but are still interested in learning how to communicate using ASL. The online courses are typically offered individually or as part of a certificate or degree program that consists of on-site courses as well. Individuals interested in learning the basics may be content with distance learning options, but those looking to complete a degree or obtain national certification may have to dedicate time to on-site schooling or a hybrid program.
Similar to on-campus programs, many of the courses offered online are beginner courses in signing or courses focused on the background of the profession. Whether pursuing courses through a certificate or degree program, online course options may include the following:
- Intermediate sign language
- Introduction to interpreting
- Deaf history and culture
- Working with the deaf and hard of hearing
- Careers in ASL
- Interpreting in a variety of settings
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) offers national certification and maintenance programs to help insure quality and professionalism for interpreters, as well as the deaf and hard-of-hearing community (www.rid.org). Many certification and degree programs offered through colleges and universities are structured to prepare graduates to take the RID National Interpreter Certification exams.
RID also offers a continuing education program for those who become certified. Every ten hours of participation in organized activities that encourage growth and advancement in the field count for one Continuing Education Unit (CEU). Some schools offer distance-learning programs for RID certificate holders that count for both course and CEU credit.
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