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Is Sign Language Interpreting a Real Job?

The most common questions asked about sign language interpreters are: Are sign language interpreters needed? Are sign language interpreters in high demand? How do sign language interpreters keep up? How do sign language interpreters find jobs? How do sign language interpreters get paid? Where do sign language interpreters work? Are sign language interpreters deaf?

In this article, we will provide answers to your questions.

Are Sign Language Interpreters Needed?

Sign language interpreters are a needed and valued part of communication access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Are Sign Language Interpreters In High Demand?

The employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 20 percent from 2019 to 2029 — much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be best for those who have professional certification.

How Do Sign Language Interpreters Keep Up?

Sign language interpreters go through an Interpreter Training Program (ITP), also called an Interpreter Education Program (IEP), or an Interpreter Preparation Program (IPP). These programs focus on specialty training for interpreting between ASL and English.

How Do Sign Language Interpreters Find Jobs?

Some sign language interpreters work for schools, hospitals, businesses, etc. Other sign language interpreters are independent contractors who schedule their work with the interpreting agencies. These agencies work with hundreds of sign language interpreters and schedule interpreters for any and everything you can imagine. Demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow due to the increasing use of video remote interpreting (VRI) and video relay services (VRS), which allow people to conduct online video calls and use a sign language interpreter.

How Do Sign Language Interpreters Get Paid?

If an interpreter is a full-time employee they are paid directly through the organization they work for. Many sign language interpreters work through interpreting agencies. These agencies are the central hub for receiving requests who then work with their pool of interpreters to find the right person to fill the request. For example, when a deaf person has a doctor's appointment, the doctor's office is responsible to coordinate interpreting services. The doctor's office contacts an interpreting agency and the agency provides the interpreter at the doctor's appointment. The doctor's office pays the agency and the agency pays the interpreter.

Where Do Sign Language Interpreters Work?

Interpreters commonly work in settings such as schools, hospitals, courtrooms, detention facilities, meeting rooms, and conference centers. Depending on the setting and type of assignment, interpreting may be stressful, as highly technical or sensitive information must be relayed accurately. In some settings, interpreters may work as part of a team. With the development of new communication technology, more interpreters are working remotely via video connections.

Resources To Learn More:

NAD Interpreting American Sign Language

Resource for interpreting American Sign Language by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

Become An Interpreter

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) guide for becoming an interpreter for American Sign Language.

Occupational Outlook Handbook for Interpreters and Translators

Facts and salary statistics for careers in interpreting and translating, posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

S.I.G.N. Academy

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