Sign language as a career

Discover career opportunities in a career field as a sign language interpreter.

Sign language

Learning to communicate is an important life skill that helps us as a society get along and work well together. Effective communication is also a crucial career skill to have. Various forms of communication can lead to specific career fields. One form of communication that acts as a blend of both a good life and a good career skill is sign language.

Let’s focus on American Sign Language (ASL). The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that American Sign Language is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. American Sign Language is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Sign languages are different in other countries.

Learning and knowing American Sign Language can lead to a career as an interpreter/translator. Interpreters may work in a variety of settings like education (K-12 and higher education), business, the medical field and video relay services and video remote interpreting services. With the increasing use of video relay services (online video calls), the Occupational Outlook Handbook on the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow rapidly.

Earning a bachelor’s degree would be a good step to move towards this career path along with earning a certification from the Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf. A certificate or an associate’s degree can get someone in an entry level position. American Sign Language is a major at the college/university level. In this major, students study the signs and the accompanying facial expressions and body language in this form of communication.

Youth preparing to become an American Sign Language interpreter can support their education by:

  • Seeking opportunities to learn about deaf culture.
  • Scheduling classes with language labs.
  • Participating in hands-on learning activities in the industry (field trips, internships, job shadow).
  • Volunteering with organizations serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing population.
  • Joining a club on campus relating to the American Sign Language major.
  • Continuously practicing American Sign Language.

There are numerous opportunities for a person with the skill of sign language to go into a career field. This skill can be integrated into other careers and jobs as an additional skill set to enhance the work being done. As youth workers or parents, youth can be encouraged to learn a new language, like sign language, to build their ability to communicate as a life and career skill.

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