Sign language interpreters: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more
Sign language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. Sign language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL), which combines signing, finger spelling, and specific body language. ASL is a separate language from English and has its own grammar.
Some interpreters specialize in other forms of interpreting for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing can lip-read English instead of signing in ASL. Interpreters who work with these people do “oral interpretation,” mouthing speech silently and very carefully so that their lips can be read easily. They also may use facial expressions and gestures to help the lip-reader understand.
Other modes of interpreting include cued speech, which uses hand shapes placed near the mouth to give lip-readers more information; signing exact English; and tactile signing, which is interpreting for people who are blind as well as deaf by making hand signs into the deaf and blind person’s hand.
- Education Required
- A bachelor’s degree is typically needed to become an interpreter or translator along with proficiency in at least two languages, one of which is usually English.
- Training Required
- Interpreters and translators generally do not need any formal training, as they are expected to be able to interpret and translate before they are hired. However, those working in the community as court or medical interpreters or translators are more likely to complete job-specific training programs or certificates.
- Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 17% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
- After interpreters and translators have enough experience, they can move up to more difficult assignments, seek certification, and obtain editorial responsibility. They can also manage or start their own business.
- There is currently no universal certification required of interpreters and translators beyond passing the required court interpreting exams offered by most states. However, workers can take a variety of tests that show proficiency. For example, the American Translators Association provides certification in 29 language combinations.
- Median pay: How much do Interpreters and Translators make?
- $46,120 Annual Salary
- $22.17 per hour
Careers for Interpreters and Translators
- Community interpreters
- Conference interpreters
- Coordinating interpreters
- Educational interpreters
- Escort interpreters
- Federal court interpreters
- Foreign language interpreters and translators
- Health or medical interpreters and translators
- Healthcare interpreters and translators
- Judiciary interpreters and translators
- Legal or judicial interpreters and translators
- Liaison interpreters
- Liaison or escort interpreters
- Literary interpreters
- Literary translators
- Localization translators
- Medical interpreters and translators
- Mental health interpreters
- Simultaneous interpreters
- State court interpreters
- Trilingual interpreters