How to Become an American Sign Language Interpreter

How to Become an American Sign Language Interpreter

Are you interested in becoming an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter? This unique career path offers a rewarding opportunity to work with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, providing them with essential communication support. ASL interpreters play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the deaf community and the hearing world.

Becoming an ASL interpreter requires a sequence of steps, starting with gaining a deep understanding of the language itself. ASL is a visual language that uses handshapes, movements, and facial expressions to convey meaning. There are various educational options available to help you build your ASL skills, such as local college programs, online courses, and certification institutes.



Once you have gained proficiency in ASL, the next step is to acquire the necessary educational qualifications and certifications. Many states have their own certification requirements, and it’s essential to research the specific requirements in your area. You will generally need to complete a degree program in ASL interpretation or a related field, such as Deaf Studies or Communication Disorders.

After completing your degree, gaining professional experience is crucial to becoming a successful ASL interpreter. Look for opportunities to work in different settings, such as healthcare facilities, educational institutions, or social service agencies. Working with experienced interpreters will help you refine your skills and gain valuable real-world experience.

The National Association of the Deaf and its local affiliates and chapters can provide helpful information about becoming an ASL interpreter. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is another valuable resource that offers certifications and maintains a directory of qualified interpreters. Membership in professional organizations like these can also provide networking opportunities and access to job listings.

In addition to acquiring the necessary skills and certifications, it’s essential to develop the right personality traits for this profession. ASL interpreters must be patient, adaptable, and have excellent communication skills. They should also have sensitivity toward the deaf community and a commitment to providing equal accessibility to information and services.



Research the Field

Before becoming an American Sign Language interpreter, it is important to thoroughly research the field to gain a better understanding of the requirements and expectations. Here are some key steps to help you in your research:

  • Start by familiarizing yourself with the different settings and careers in which ASL interpreters work. Interpreters can work in healthcare settings, educational institutions, social services, and more.
  • Explore the various certifications and degrees that are available for ASL interpreters. Some states, such as Nebraska, have specific certification requirements, while others may require a degree in a related field.
  • Contact local interpreter services or organizations to gather information about the field. They can provide insights into the skills, competencies, and certifications that are most in demand.
  • Consider reaching out to experienced ASL interpreters to learn about their experiences and get advice on the next steps to take in your career.
  • Research the work environment and the salary range for ASL interpreters. This will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of compensation and job stability.
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Furthermore, it is crucial to assess your own skills, personality, and fluency in signing languages before deciding to become an interpreter. Effective interpretation requires strong language skills, professionalism, and the ability to work under pressure.

Once you have gathered all the necessary information and assessed your suitability for the profession, you can move on to the next steps in becoming an American Sign Language interpreter.



Get the Right Education and Training

To become an American Sign Language interpreter, it is important to gain the right education and training. There are several steps you can take to ensure you have the necessary skills and qualifications:

1. Research interpreter training programs: Look for colleges or universities that offer ASL interpreter training programs. You can also consider institutes or organizations that provide ASL interpreting courses.

2. Choose the right program: When selecting a program, consider factors such as location, cost, faculty, and alumni resources. Look for programs that are accredited and have experienced instructors.

3. Understand the requirements: Each state may have different requirements for ASL interpreters. Research the certifications and competencies needed in your state to practice as a professional interpreter.

4. Build your skills: Taking courses alone is not enough. Look for opportunities to gain practical experience in interpreting. You can join local ASL interpreting affiliates or seek volunteer work to enhance your skills.

5. Transfer credits: If you have already completed courses or have a degree in a related field, check if you can transfer those credits to your interpreter training program. This can save you time and money.

6. Gain work experience: To become certified, many states require a certain amount of working hours as an interpreter. Seek out opportunities to work with deaf individuals or in settings where ASL interpretation services are provided.

7. Stay updated: ASL and interpreting are constantly evolving fields. Stay informed about the latest developments and improvements. Attend workshops, conferences, or join professional organizations to stay connected to the interpreting community.

By following these steps and putting in the necessary effort and dedication, you can build a successful career as an American Sign Language interpreter.

Gain Experience through Internships and Volunteering

In order to build your competency and professionalism as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, it is crucial to gain practical experience through internships and volunteering. These opportunities can provide you with valuable hands-on experience in an actual interpreting setting.

One option is to intern or volunteer in organizations that provide ASL interpretation services. Contact local chapters of national organizations, such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), to inquire about internship or volunteer opportunities. You may also consider reaching out to healthcare facilities, educational institutions, or other service providers that offer ASL interpreting services.

In some states, such as Oregon, there are ASL interpreting programs at colleges or universities that offer internship placements as part of their degree programs. If you are in such a program, make sure to explore internships offered through your college or university.

When choosing an internship or volunteer opportunity, consider the location as well. If you have the option, working in a city with a high demand for ASL interpreters, such as Portland, Oregon, or in areas with a large Deaf population, can provide you with more exposure and opportunities to refine your skills.

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Internships and volunteering can also give you access to experienced interpreters who can serve as mentors and provide supervision and guidance. This is particularly important in acquiring the necessary competencies and meeting the professional expectations of the field.

Keep in mind that internships and volunteering may be paid or unpaid, so consider your financial situation and choose accordingly. Even if the opportunity is unpaid, the knowledge and experience gained can be invaluable for your career.

In addition to internships and volunteering, consider taking advantage of free or low-cost resources to further develop your skills. Many organizations and affiliates of RID offer webinars, workshops, and courses that can help you expand your knowledge and network within the interpreting community.

Furthermore, pursuing certifications and degrees in ASL interpreting can enhance your professional credentials and open up more career options. Take the time to research the certifications and qualifications required in your area, as different states may have different requirements.

Steps to Gain Experience:

  1. Research organizations that provide ASL interpretation services
  2. Contact local chapters of national organizations, such as RID, to inquire about internship or volunteer opportunities
  3. Reach out to healthcare facilities, educational institutions, or other service providers that offer ASL interpreting services
  4. Explore internships offered through your college or university if applicable
  5. Consider the location and demand for ASL interpreters
  6. Seek out experienced interpreters who can serve as mentors
  7. Consider the financial aspect of internships and volunteering
  8. Take advantage of free or low-cost resources to further develop your skills
  9. Research certifications and degrees in ASL interpreting

By gaining experience through internships and volunteering, you can become a more experienced and proficient ASL interpreter, opening up more opportunities and potentially increasing your salary. It is a crucial step in your journey to becoming a professional ASL interpreter.

Obtain Certification and Licensure

Once you have gained a strong foundation in American Sign Language (ASL) and have developed your interpreting skills, the next step is to obtain certification and licensure. Becoming a certified ASL interpreter is crucial for establishing your credibility and demonstrating your competency in the field.

Research Certification and Licensure Requirements

Before you begin the certification process, it is important to research the specific requirements in your state or local area. Each state may have different regulations and requirements for becoming a certified ASL interpreter. Contact your local board or licensing agency to get accurate information about the necessary steps.

Consider Accredited Programs and Credentials

In order to meet the requirements for certification and licensure, it is helpful to enroll in an accredited ASL interpreter program. These programs provide structured coursework and training to help you develop the necessary skills and competencies. They may also offer certifications or degrees upon completion. Research different programs in your area to find one that aligns with your goals and needs.

Join Professional Associations and Chapters

Becoming a member of professional organizations and chapters related to ASL interpreting can be highly beneficial. These associations provide resources, networking opportunities, and professional development options that can help you stay updated with the latest industry trends and best practices. They may also offer certifications or credentials that can enhance your professional profile.

Utilize Alumni and Testimonial Services

Prepare for Certification Exams

The certification process typically involves a series of exams that test your fluency in ASL and your ability to effectively interpret between ASL and spoken English. Study and practice extensively to ensure you are well-prepared for the exams. Utilize sample exams, study guides, and other resources available to help you build your knowledge and skills.

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Gain Experience and Supervision

Working under the supervision of experienced and certified ASL interpreters is an important step in gaining practical experience and improving your skills. Seek opportunities to shadow or assist certified interpreters in various settings, such as in healthcare, community services, or educational institutions. This hands-on experience will not only enhance your skills but also provide valuable networking connections.

Continued Professional Development

Once you have obtained your certification and licensure, it is important to continue your professional development. Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences to stay updated with industry advancements. Seek out opportunities to further specialize in specific areas of ASL interpreting, such as legal or medical interpreting. Continued learning and development will help you maintain your competency and adapt to the evolving needs of the Deaf community.

By following this step-by-step guide, you can successfully navigate the process of becoming a certified and licensed American Sign Language interpreter. Remember to stay dedicated, practice regularly, and seek support and guidance from the ASL interpreting community as you work towards achieving your career goals.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please feel free to contact us. Our team of helpful and professional staff is here to support you in your journey to becoming an American Sign Language interpreter.

Whether you are just starting out or have already begun your educational journey, we are here to help. Our faculty members are experienced interpreters and can offer guidance and supervision throughout the course of your studies. They can also provide you with sample estimates of the salary you can expect to earn as an interpreter in different settings and locations within the United States.

If you are interested in gaining fluency in sign languages other than American Sign Language, our affiliates offer courses and resources to help you expand your language skills. They can also assist you in transferring your credits to other degree programs if you decide to pursue further education in related fields.

We understand that accessibility is a key factor in becoming a successful interpreter. That’s why our programs and courses are designed to meet the needs of individuals with different communication styles and requirements. Whether you are working full-time or part-time, we offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate your busy lifestyle.

Contact us today to take the first steps towards becoming an American Sign Language interpreter. Our team is here to answer your questions and provide you with the support you need to succeed in this rewarding and impactful career.

FAQ

What are the requirements to become an American Sign Language Interpreter?

To become an American Sign Language Interpreter, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Additionally, you will need to complete an interpreter training program and obtain a certification from a recognized organization such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).

How long does it take to become an American Sign Language Interpreter?

The time it takes to become an American Sign Language Interpreter can vary depending on several factors. Generally, it takes around 2-4 years to complete an interpreter training program. Additionally, acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge may take additional time and practice.

Can I become an American Sign Language Interpreter without a formal education?

While a formal education is not strictly required to become an American Sign Language Interpreter, it is highly recommended. Completing an interpreter training program will provide you with the necessary skills, knowledge, and credentials to work as a professional interpreter.

What is the job outlook for American Sign Language Interpreters?

The job outlook for American Sign Language Interpreters is generally positive. With the increasing demand for interpreters in various settings, such as educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and government agencies, there are plenty of opportunities for qualified individuals. However, competition for jobs can be high, so having additional certifications or specializations can be beneficial.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.