American Sign Language Interpreter Salary and Career Facts

American Sign Language interpreters help deaf or hearing-impaired individuals communicate with the hearing community. Keep reading to learn more about degree programs, job options and potential wages in this field. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does An American Sign Language Interpreter Do?

An ASL interpreter bridges the communication gap between individuals who can hear and those who cannot. Using hand signals, body language and other techniques, a sign language interpreter can show those who can't hear what somebody is saying. A sign language interpreter may also be able to understand the language of those who are deaf; he or she can then share that information with others.

How Do I Get My Education?

You might consider earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in American Sign Language or sign language interpreting. In these programs, you'll study sign language techniques, the culture of the deaf community and oral interpretation. You may need to take some general education courses, like English composition or algebra. Most associate's and bachelor's programs require completion of an internship or an experiential learning course.

If you've already earned a bachelor's degree in this field, you might pursue a master's degree in education interpretation or interpretation. Master's programs are often more specialized than undergraduate programs; you could study sign language and interpretation techniques that are used in a medical, business or special education setting. You'll usually need to complete an internship in order to earn a master's degree.

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf offers the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) credential to individuals who've completed at least an associate's program. You'll need to take three exams that test your interpretation knowledge, performance level and decision-making skills in order to receive the NIC credential. Certification requirements vary by employer; earning certification may lead to an increase in employment opportunities.

Is There a Demand for Interpreters?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the number of jobs for interpreters and translators would increase by 22% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). The main factor behind the growth in demand for ASL interpreters was the increased use of video relay systems, which allowed communication between individuals over the Internet.

How Much Could I Be Paid?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all interpreters and translators was $40,860 in 2009. PayScale.com notes that the middle half of sign language interpreters earned an hourly wage of $25.03-$44.82 in 2011. During the same year, the middle half of sign language interpreters earned an annual salary of $31,515-$61,488.

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