Sign language as a career

From a life skill to a career skill, there are opportunities in a career field as a sign language interpreter.

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

U.S. News University Directory states the duties of a sign language interpreter consist of communicating words, ideas and feelings between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear, using American Sign Language (ASL) to translate the English language. Fluency in English and American Sign Language is needed with a minimum of an associate’s degree, however, employers are increasingly requiring a bachelor’s degree.

According to Gallaudet University, a university leader in educating the deaf and hard of hearing students, careers in sign language take place in various settings including colleges and universities, community hearing and speech agencies, consumer associations, government agencies, health departments, hospitals and clinics, industry and business, legal settings, mental health clinics, private practices, private and state schools, rehabilitation centers, research centers and social service agencies.

With the increasing use of video relay services (online video calls), the Occupational Outlook Handbook states that the demand for American Sign Language interpreters is expected to grow rapidly. How can a person prepare for a career in this field? Once again, according to Gallaudet University, a person can do four things:

  • Learn sign language
  • Develop English skills
  • Explore opportunities
  • Volunteer

In preparation, let’s focus on volunteering and community service. Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan 4-H Youth Development has a resource to help youth volunteer and create a community service opportunity to learn about people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Give a student the opportunity to plan his or her volunteer experience using the Planning Your Community Service Project – Based on a Community Service Model to serve the deaf or hard of hearing population. From a career preparation perspective, a community service experience can provide a possible network, contacts, references and support for entering a career in 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 youth workers or parents, let’s encourage youth to learn a new language - sign language - to build their ability to communicate as a life and career skill.

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