How to Become a

Sign Language Interpreter

The complete career guide to be a Sign Language Interpreter: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $48,360
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 28.7%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Flexible Hours
    Career Attribute

Working as a sign language interpreter involves listening to one language then communicating it clearly in another language, either working between American Sign Language (ASL) to English or the other way around – with hand signs, gestures and facial expression.

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What is a Sign Language Interpreter?


As a Sign Language Interpreter, you must handle the following essential responsibilities:

  • Track and communicate information ranging from spoken phrases to words, with the help of hand signs or movements for hard of hearing audiences.
  • Work on diverse assignments like taking up interpreting official communication for government departments at the direction of your supervisor, while upholding ethical behaviour and keeping all information confidential.
  • Conduct research and gain a solid understanding of commonly used terminology, which might include medical, scientific, technological and legal phrasing.
  • Browse through the day-to-day schedule and work alongside the Interpreter Coordinator or other team members, and accurately track the activity logs, other documentation, etc.
  • Use free time between assignments to review policies and procedures for better facilitating interpretation of languages.

Day In The Life

In your role as a sign language interpreter, you will use your expert skills as a translator and interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing, that may have mental health issues. You must take responsibility for providing clear translations in situations like emergencies, events, etc. You should not only have exemplary skills in both sign language and the English language, you also need to display superior levels of listening and communication skills. High memory recall and attention to detail is equally valuable, as an interpreter must correctly remember what is being communicated, to translate it in the best possible manner.

Once in a while, you will have to travel and participate in home visits to support social workers or therapists on sensitive assignments. You must also cultivate a deep knowledge of community resources and maintain contact with key individuals for referral purposes – for instance, arranging social security benefits for individuals that are hearing impaired. In certain cases, sign language interpreters must organise or assist with developing and implementing special needs workshops or events, e.g. deaf awareness workshops.

Work Schedule

You have to go wherever the job takes you in this type of position, with hourly shifts varying based on need. While some interpreters prefer taking work on a freelance basis and remain self-employed. It is not unusual to be on call 24×7 and assisting varied clients when their services are in demand. In addition, all work is performed in compliance with the recognized code of ethics established by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. As a sign language interpreter, you will work as a member of a support services team and work independently – to change, adapt and develop situations and make decisions.

Growth Of The Job

Job opportunities in this industry for careers in sign language instruction is expected to rise by 17 percent between 2016 to 2026, a much higher percentage than the national average for other occupations. The phenomenon of globalization and increasing numbers of non-native English speakers in the United States, will bring job growth. You will have a distinct advantage if you have professional certification in comparison with other candidates on the job market.

Further, there is expected to be quick developments in video relay as well as video remote interpreting technologies. Such advancements result in real-time ASL translation via video calling over Internet networks. With sufficient experience in this industry, sign language interpreters can move on to more specialized careers as a medical or legal interpreter.

Typical Employers

When you work as a sign language interpreter, be prepared to take on roles at academic institutions, medical clinics, courts, government departments and other job settings. To be specific, there are promising jobs with colleges, universities, social security service agencies, school district offices, research centers, law offices, hospitals, etc. Sometimes, you can find yourself a work project that involves being on television interpreting and communicating content for viewers.

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How To Become a Sign Language Interpreter

Sign Language Interpreters should possess at least a college degree in a relevant subject area. However, specialized certificate courses are also available to sharpen your skills, at community colleges and universities. Learning sign language is no easy feat – it requires a lot of time and experience to gain full qualifications as an ASL interpreter. To confirm your competency level, you should eventually pursue a certification via the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

Sign Language Interpreter Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Sign Language Interpreter salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Sign Language Interpreter's can make an average annual salary of $48,360, or $23 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $32,470 or $16 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #408 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Sign Language Interpreter. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Sign Language Interpreters

  • 4.5%   Doctorate
  • 14.4%   Masters
  • 30.9%   Bachelors
  • 13.6%   Associates
  • 22.4%   College
  • 11.3%   High School
  • 2.9%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Sign Language Interpreter job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 17,500 jobs for a total of 78,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 28.7% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #17 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Sign Language Interpreters

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 10,400 1,100 1%
Elementary and secondary schools; local 9,800 600 1%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 3,800 1,100 1%

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