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.

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)
  • Education
  • 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.