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Career Prospects of an American Sign Language Interpreter

Job Descriptions November 27, 2012

American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters employs body language, finger spelling and ASL signs to let people with hearing impairment communicate with others.  ASL interpreters are employed in various fields like businesses, health care facilities and schools.

Wage Levels of ASL Interpreters

Interpreters and translators (irrespective of their fields), including foreign language interpreters and translators and ASL, took home a median annual salary of $45,700 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), May 2009; (www.bls.gov)).  Interpreters are employed by local government agencies, medical facilities and elementary and high schools. The geographical location of employment and skill level of an ASL interpreter influence their income level.  Translators and interpreters who earned the highest wages were those who are employed by business, federal government, and research and development sectors (source: BLS, May 2009). Interpreters and translators employed by the federal government took home an annual average salary of $72,330, while translators and interpreters working in elementary and high schools earned $37,530.

Career Profile

A large number of ASL interpreters develop their careers informally via informal chats with hearing impaired or deaf people.  To be employed as an ASL translator, you want to be fluent in ASL and English, but that may not, by itself, be sufficient to get hired. An interpreter needs demonstrable clarity of communication and must demonstrate sensitivity to the institution and culture. They must have the capability of conveying objectively and accurately, the emotion and meaning of anything they interpret.

Educational Qualification Prerequisites

A bachelor degree is the minimum educational requirement of ASL interpreters.  Universities and colleges offer specialized degree and certificate courses in ASL interpretation.  Apart from sign language training, courses in deaf culture are incorporated in the bachelor degree programs offered at these institutions.  A certified ASL interpreter garners the skills s/he needs with on-the job experience over a period of time.  ASL interpreters can improve their communication and fluency skills with additional volunteer work, internships and education.  An ASL interpreter can enhance their career prospects by obtaining a certification via the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (source: www.rid.org).

Job Forecast for ASL Interpreters

Job growth of Interpreters and translators are projected to increase due to the growth of video remote interpreting and video relay service technologies.  Thanks to such technological progress, it is now possible for ASL translators to engage in video calling over high-speed Internet connections. They can find job opportunities in religious and educational institutions apart from arts, community and social service organizations.  With additional experience under their belt, interpreters can aspire to establishing careers in medical or legal interpretation.

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