Would you like to translate spoken word into hand gestures and finger spelling for the deaf and hard of hearing? If so, you may be interested in becoming a sign language interpreter. As a sign language interpreter, you can work in a variety of job settings and you may enjoy well-paying employment. Your average salary will depend on a variety of factors, from experience to location.
Sign Language Interpreter Job Summary
If you have strong English skills, the commitment to learn a new language and a desire to assist others, then you might enjoy a career as a sign language interpreter. As a sign language interpreter, you translate spoken English into American Sign Language (ASL) for the benefit of deaf or hearing-impaired individuals. The job prospects for sign language interpreters are favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that positions in this field would grow quickly between 2008 and 2018 due to an increase in Internet video communication (http://www.bls.gov).
According to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), salary statistics for this field are hard to come by, mostly because sign language interpreter jobs and their pay vary widely (http://www.rid.org). In March 2011,PayScale.com reported that the middle half of interpreters reporting made between $17.61 and $33.82 hourly; however, many interpreters work as freelancers and are sometimes unable to find 40 hours of work in a week. Salaried jobs are available in several sectors, such as the government. For example, the CIA hires sign language interpreters and listed a salary of $74,872 to $115,742 on the CIA job website in March 2011 for an interpreter with advanced certification (http://www.cia.gov). Your particular salary may depend on your geographic location, training, credentials and experience.
Education and Career Advancement
While it’s possible to learn ASL without formal education, attending a sign language interpretation program can be very helpful because of the interactive nature of this type of interpretation. You could choose to pursue either an associate or bachelor’s degree in this field, with programs including courses in interpretation analysis, deaf culture, ASL, transliterating and more. These programs are designed to be interactive and provide practical interpreting opportunities to students.
To advance your earning potential, you might consider pursuing certification, such as the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) offered by RID in association with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Earning this certification requires passing a written exam, oral interview and performance test. You can become earn certification at a generalist, advanced or master level. Each certification requires a higher-level exam and interview. If you apply for certification before July 2012, you’ll need an associate’s degree to be eligible for certification, but if you apply after July 1, 2012 the degree requirement is a bachelor’s degree.