How To Become an ASL Interpreter in 6 Steps

Wondering how to become a sign language interpreter? Interpreting is an excellent career to pursue because it offers a variety of exciting job opportunities and you get to be a part of the diverse Deaf community.

As an ASL interpreter, you get to be a mediator to a group of people that, otherwise, has struggles in completing everyday tasks such as going to the dentist or meeting up with a school counselor.

Earn ASL certification

You can get your National Interpreter Certification (NIC) through the Registry for the Interpreters of the Deaf. This rigorous process includes having a bachelor’s degree, completing several interviews, passing the NIC Performance exam and passing the NIC Knowledge exam.

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What does an ASL interpreter do?

An ASL interpreter has a crucial role in providing communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who are hearing. Here are some common responsibilities of an ASL interpreter:

What is an ASL interpreter?

An ASL interpreter, or ASL translator, works with people who are deaf or hard of hearing by translating sign language into spoken words and spoken words into sign language. ASL translators need an expert level understanding of both American Sign Language and the English language to communicate and translate between both languages. They can work in any setting where translation is necessary, and when working in technical fields, like medical or legal, they must study and understand technical terminology in order to translate accurately. Its common for ASL interpreters to work with individuals one-on-on or in a group setting.

ALS interpreters must follow a code of ethics established by The Registry for the Interpreters of the Deaf (RID). It has important rules about behavior, like not changing the message youre interpreting, not adding personal opinions or advice to the translation and keeping confidential information private. Other tenets of the RID code of ethics include conducting yourself in an appropriate manner, treating others with respect, maintaining professional development and possessing the skills and knowledge needed for particular situations.

ASL interpreter skills

Here are common skills that ASL interpreters posses:

How to become an ASL interpreter

Here are the steps for becoming an ASL interpreter:

1. Master ASL

If you have not already mastered ASL, then the first step is to plan how you can learn and master American Sign Language. Some options include online classes, local classes or private tutoring. It can take several years to learn the unique grammar rules and understand the deaf community and culture. Many people learn ASL more quickly if they get involved in the deaf community. Some deaf communities have area chats at libraries and coffee shops for people who want to practice their ASL skills.

2. Consider an education

The minimum requirement to be an ASL interpreter is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, many employers prefer a college degree in ASL, English, communication or interpretation, with additional coursework in ASL or deaf culture. A large number of colleges offer ASL interpreter programs, from certificates of achievement to bachelors degrees. You can find a list of all the accredited ASL programs through The Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education. Some other professional associations with ASL programs or information about ASL programs include the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers and the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.

3. Earn ASL certification

An ASL interpreter certification can help you reach your highest potential in this career. You can get your National Interpreter Certification (NIC) through the Registry for the Interpreters of the Deaf. This rigorous process includes having a bachelors degree, completing several interviews, passing the NIC Performance exam and passing the NIC Knowledge exam. There are three levels of certification:

You can also earn specialized certifications for different positions and industries as you diversify and broaden your skills. Its important to note that some states require passing a statewide screening test to earn a state-specific license or certification in addition to a national certification.

4. Gain experience

The majority of ASL interpreter positions require considerable experience, in addition to a certification or degree. Its common for employers to request two to five years of ASL interpreter experience, such as participating in sign language groups, tutoring deaf and hard-of-hearing students or volunteering with deaf assistance organizations. You can also gain experience with internships or mentorship programs through universities or ASL training programs or with certified language interpreting experts.

5. Learn professional and personality traits

Employers expect ASL interpreters to have certain professional and personal traits. Some of these traits include:

6. Seek employment

There is an enormous variety of ASL interpreter jobs because of the wide variety of positions they fill in so many industries. When youve decided on the industry or type of position you want, you can research companies that are hiring in those fields to learn more about their specific requirements. Here are just some of the possible positions to choose from:

ASL interpreter workplace environment

ASL interpreters can work as full-time employees in courtrooms, schools, hospitals, business offices, music concerts, churches and many other settings that need translation services. They can also work as part-time employees, freelancers or independent contractors. Because of the wide variety of industries and positions, ASL interpreter workplace environments are quite diverse.

ASL interpreter salary and job outlook

Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


Is becoming an ASL interpreter worth it?

For people who feel a connection to the deaf community, becoming an American Sign Language interpreter may be the perfect career. For one thing, the salary is higher than the national average. And, this job sector is growing. At the current rate, there will be another 15,000 jobs by 2029.

How long does it take to be a sign language translator?

The degree or certificate takes a minimum of three years starting with ASL III. If starting with ASL I, it takes a minimum of four years to complete all ITP coursework. For those taking general education courses, duration will vary depending on how many units are required and how many days per week students attend.

Do ASL interpreters make a lot of money?

The salaries of American Sign Language Interpreters in the US range from $16,217 to $430,462 , with a median salary of $78,441 . The middle 57% of American Sign Language Interpreters makes between $78,447 and $195,778, with the top 86% making $430,462.

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