Tyler Junior College

Sign Language Interpreting

Career Opportunities

Nature of the Profession: 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. Most sign-language interpreters either interpret, aiding communication between English and ASL, or transliterate, facilitating communication between English and contact signing—a form of signing that uses a more English language-based word order. Some interpreters specialize in oral interpreting for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and lip-read instead of sign. Other specialties include tactile signing, which is interpreting for people who are blind as well as deaf by making manual signs into their hands, using cued speech, and signing exact English. Interpreters relay concepts and ideas between languages. They must thoroughly understand the subject matter in which they work in order to accurately convey information from one language into another. In addition, they must be sensitive to the cultures associated with their languages of expertise.

Education and Training: While Texas requires an Associate Degree to take the state board exam, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf will require a Bachelor degree beginning 2012 to take the national certification exam.

Salary Range: Median salary wages of $43,300 in May 2010. The highest 10 percent earned more than $69,190. Government language specialists earned an average of $79,865 annually in March 2009. Earnings depend on location, subject matter, skill, experience, education, certification, and type of employer.

Employment Outlook: Employment of interpreters and translators is expected to grow 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by broadening international ties and by large increases in the number of non-English-speaking people in the United States. Job opportunities should be best for those who have professional certification.

What can a basic level certified interpreter do? The following list (from the BEI Website) of settings for use of interpreters is not all-inclusive. The person desiring to utilize an interpreter should find a comparable or similar situation on the list. Each situation should be carefully evaluated and given consideration to the communication needs and the expected complexity of the assignment. Often special circumstances or unique communication needs will warrant the use of an interpreter with a higher level of certification than is recommended below.

Medical Settings
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Routine Eye Exam, Lab Work,
  • Physical Therapy, Audiological (hearing exam), Dental Care

Educational Settings (Preschool and K - 12)
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Registration, Classroom Extracurricular Activities (Primarily Voice-to-Sign)
  • Educational Lectures, Continuing Education, Drivers Education, TV Labs (Primarily Voice-to-Sign)
  • Support Services - Parent/Teacher Conference, Orientation, Tutoring, Life/ Work Skills
  • Educational Workshops (Primarily Voice-to-Sign)

Education Settings (Institutions of Higher Education)
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Registration, Classroom, Extracurricular Activities (Primarily Sign-to-Voice)
  • Educational Lectures, Continuing Education,, Defensive Driving, Labs (Primarily Voice-to-Sign)
  • Support Services - Orientation, Tutoring
  • Educational Workshops (Primarily Sign-to-Voice)

Vocational Training Settings
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Basic Job Readiness Training (Semi skilled technical or unskilled labor), Interview, Tutoring

Economic Settings
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Employment Related Job Interview/Application
  • Personal Transactions Banking, Pre wedding, Pre funeral Arrangements
  • Economic Services Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicare/ Medicaid, Welfare Card for Services, Public or Private Organizations, Benefit Program

Economic Settings
Recommend: Category B

  • Employment Related Employee/Employer Meeting, Union Meeting
  • Personal Transactions Mortgage and Loan, Insurance (Purchasing and Claims), Major Purchase (Car, Home)

Civil or Social Settings
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Social Awareness Civic Club Meetings, Political Events
  • Independent Living Basic Living Skills, Half way House
  • Voter Registration

Community Settings
Recommend: Category A, B

  • Bus Card, Recreation (Campus/Parks), Socialization

Artistic Settings
Recommend: Category B

  • Performing Arts, TV (Artistic/Entertainment)