Resources for Becoming an Interpreter
American Sign Language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Schools, government agencies, hospitals, court systems, and private businesses employ interpreters. Interpreters work in a variety of settings including medical, legal, religious, mental health, rehabilitation, performing arts and business. Professional American Sign Language interpreters develop interpreting skills through extensive training and practice over a long period of time. Before committing to this profession, it is imperative that you prepare yourself for the expectations, requirements and standards that will be asked of you. Below are a few resources that will help guide you along the process.
- Discover Interpreting
- This site, funded by the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), provides all the tools needed to learn more about the interpreting profession and how to get started.
- The Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education
- CCIE was established to promote professionalism in the field of sign language interpreter education through an accreditation process. This site provides a list of accredited programs to help you prepare to enter the field of interpreting.
- The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s Standard Practice Papers
- RID’s Standard Practice Papers (SPPs) articulate the consensus of the membership in outlining standard practices and positions on various interpreting roles and issues. These SPPs are excellent resources to educate all interpreters as well as hearing and deaf clients, the general public, business contacts, school personnel, doctors and nurses, etc.
- The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s Code of Professional Conduct
- The RID Code of Professional Conduct sets the standards to which all Certified Members of RID are expected to adhere.
- The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Affiliate Chapters
- RID affiliate chapters can serve as an excellent source for guidance, mentorship and information.
- The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Membership
- You can become a member of RID if you have already begun interpreting or are just interested in the field. Becoming an RID member will provide affiliated with the profession on a national level and provide a direct connection to other interpreters.
Interpreting as a Career
There is a strong need for qualified interpreters with credentials as we are currently experiencing a period in the interpreting field where supply is not keeping up with demand. The greatest demand for interpreters is in medium-to-large cities. The more mobile you are, the more likely you are to find an interpreting job.
Interpreters typically fall in one of three categories
- Agency interpreter, meaning that you are employed by an agency that provides you with job assignments.
- Freelance interpreter, meaning that you are responsible for finding and maintaining your own job assignments and client base.
- Contracted interpreter, meaning that you take on aspects of both the agency interpreter and the freelance interpreter. You provide services to an interpreter services agency or to other agencies in accordance with the terms and conditions of a particular contract or contracts. You are not an employee of the interpreter services agency or any other agencies for which they provide services.
Salary statistics for interpreters is very difficult to generalize as salaries vary depending on many factors. These include:
- Geographical area (rural areas tend to pay less than urban areas)
- Amount of experience
- Credentials held
- Type of interpreting work, such as freelance, contracted or agency
You may want to contact interpreter referral agencies, school systems, or an RID Affiliate Chapter to get specific information about the geographical area of interpreting that interests you.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides Occupational Employment and Wages for Interpreters and Transliterators. This information includes foreign language translators, so it is not a complete and accurate representation of the sign language interpreting field. They also provide an Occupational Outlook Handbook for Interpreters and Transliterators.