Sign Language and Oral Interpreters


Employment Prospects


There is a demand for deaf interpreters in many fields. Possible employers include public health agencies, employment agencies, hearing and speech clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, public schools, trade and technical schools, colleges and universities, business and industry, government agencies, theaters, television stations, churches and religious agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the courts.

Sign language and oral interpreters typically work in one of three categories: as salaried interpreters for an agency that provides interpreting services to individual clients, companies, and organizations; as freelance interpreters who must find their own clients; or as contract interpreters, who work under contract for an agency for a set period of time.   

Starting Out

Once sign language skills have been sufficiently developed, interpreting students may then tutor deaf students or volunteer in a social service agency that works with deaf clients. In either case, they should become familiar with the deaf community centers and any other deaf organizations in the area. The more experience with deaf people they acquire, the smoother the certification process will be. Also, to help prepare for certification, students should study the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Code of Ethics and books and videos recommended by RID. Once certified, interpreters can be listed in various directories, including directories published by RID.

Advancement Prospects

Because most interpreters work on a freelance basis, the best way to advance is to take on more clients and to remain active in the community. The key to becoming a successful interpreter is a continued study of language and deaf culture. By being part of a deaf community, interpreters can always improve their grasp of ASL. Just as the English language grows and changes, so does ASL. New developments require new signs, and some old signs become outdated. Also, by staying involved with the deaf community, interpreters can make their services readily available.

To retain certification, interpreters are required to earn continuing education units. Continuing education will allow them to maintain their skills and learn about new developments in interpreting. With a background of continuing education, interpreters can attract more clients and organizations, as well as charge higher fees.

Tips for Entry

Search job listings at https://rid.org/listings/browse-listings/328/job-listings/ and https://careers.agbell.org/jobseekers.

Join the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to receive a variety of member benefits, including a subscription to VIEWS, the organization’s quarterly newsletter, and the Journal of Interpretation; reduced certification, continuing education, and conference fees; access to networking opportunities; and a personal listing on the organization’s searchable database for interpreters.

Volunteer for RID committees, special interest groups, and workgroups to raise your profile and make networking contacts.