Is a Sign Language Degree Right for You?

If you’re interested in helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate and interact with those around them, you should consider earning a degree in sign language. This degree features study in American Sign Language (ASL) and teaches students how to effectively interpret information between one source and another. Sign language interpreters work in a variety of professional settings, including in education and for government agencies. Job prospects for sign language interpreters should continue to be favorable due to a shortage of people who have the skills needed to do the work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Advice for Earning Your Sign Language Degree Online

When you’re searching for an online sign language degree you should check to see if each school you’re considering is accredited. Accreditation is awarded to schools by regional and national accrediting agencies if they meet a certain standard of quality. Colleges and universities are typically judge by the quality of their faculty, professional development requirements for professors, if the facilities are appropriate for learning, and more. Accreditation for sign language interpretation is awarded by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE). CCIE accreditation isn’t required, but it does demonstrate that a graduate of a particular program has received an education from a college that pursues academic excellence.

Required Courses

Graduates of a bachelor’s degree in ASL interpreting program need to be fluent in sign language and have strong interpreting skills. As such, an undergraduate program may include courses such as introduction to interpreting, American Sign Language, processing skills, transliterating, and deaf cultural studies. The courses are meant to prepare students to pass the Educational Interpreting Performance Assessment or the National Interpreter Certification exam offered by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. On-campus programs may offer plenty of opportunities for learners to interact with deaf and hard of hearing students, which may help them improve their interpreting skills.

Common Career Paths

Earning a bachelor degree in sign language interpreting can give you the skills you need to work as an interpreter for companies in several industries. You can apply your skills to help students at any grade level understand what a teacher is saying, as deaf and hard of hearing specialists at vocational rehabilitation agencies or other healthcare facilities, for a travel or tour agency, or in social service. Regardless of the industry you work in you’ll be helping those who are deaf or hard of hearing learn from or interact with people they may not have been able to communicate with on their own.

  • Sign Language Interpreter

    Sign language interpreters convert information from spoken language to sign language. Interpreters must be fluent in the source language, typically English, and ASL so they can accurately translate information while it’s being spoken by someone else or in conversation. They help people who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate with those who can hear. Approximately 25% of interpreters and translators, including sign language interpreters, work for state, local, and private educational institutions, and 13% are employed at health care and social assistance facilities, according to the BLS.

    The average annual salary earned by interpreters and translators was $50,610 in May 2011, the BLS reports. Interpreters and translators in Virginia made $89,890, the most of workers in any state. Employment in this field is expected to grow 42%, which is much faster than average, from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS. Demand for sign language interpreters should grow considerably as more people use video relay services, which allow people to use a sign language interpreter to place online video calls. The BLS states that opportunities should be best for interpreters who have professional certification, and job prospects should remain favorable due to a shortage of workers who have the necessary skills.


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