Certified Hearing Interpreters

There is a common misconception that American Sign Language Interpreters are just people who have a certain level of fluency in ASL which makes them eligible to interpret for any Deaf person on the street.

The truth is, American Sign Language interpreters often have a degree in interpreting, studying the ethics, the language, the culture, and being rigorously tested on all of the above. 

It takes a lot to become an American Sign Language interpreter, which is why there is currently such a shortage. It is not easy. So let’s learn about what it really takes to become an American Sign Language interpreter.

1. American Sign Language Education

Not all interpreting programs are bachelor’s programs. Many people start with an associates in interpreting or ASL and then complete other coursework from there. 

To start the process of becoming an American Sign Language interpreter, it is highly recommended that you complete a bachelor’s degree in interpreting. To take the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) you must have a bachelor’s degree – in any field.

2. Earn Certifications

Certification is required for most interpreting positions. In many cases interpreting without certification can be a breach of interpreting ethics. A certification shows your Deaf + hearing clients that they can guarantee a certain level of accessibility when working with you. 

Hiring non-certified interpreters, while sometimes more budget-friendly, result in a lack of full accessibility for the Deaf and hearing people working to communicate through that interpreter.

The most commonly known interpreting certification is the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) which is given by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). There are two parts to this test, the knowledge test and the performance test.

Each state may also require additional state-specific certification. 

3. Types of Interpreters

Not all interpreters are the same and not every interpreter is right for every situation. Part of becoming an interpreter and going through the education and certification process is to figure out what kind of interpreting you would like to do. Here are some of the options:

  • Educational Interpreting: Elementary, Upper Schools, or College
  • Legal Interpreting
  • Medical Interpreting
  • Theatrical Interpreting
  • Deaf Blind Interpreting
  • Video Relay Interpreting

You also have options for how you want to build your career as an interpreter. You can work as a:

  • Freelance interpreter: Ability to contract with many different agencies which brings many different experiences. Less stable hours, more paperwork, do your own marketing, and no benefits.
  • Agency interpreter: Work specifically within one agency, easier to start getting gigs than freelance.
  • Staff employee: More stable, predictable, and includes benefits. Less flexibility in choosing assignments, and range of experience.

Certified hearing interpreters are a very important part of the Deaf ecosystem and are important to learn about!

If you’re thinking about becoming an interpreter and want to jump start your ASL education, try our demo.

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