How to Become a Sign Language Teacher: Career Guide

Learn how to become a sign language teacher. Explore the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in teaching sign language.

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Should I Become a Sign Language Teacher?

Sign language teachers might introduce sign language to deaf students or teach hearing students who are learning sign language as a second language. Teachers in public or private schools work school hours and generally have a two-month break during summer months. They also must be able to work well with children and adolescents.

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  • Sign Language Interpretation
  • Sign Language Linguistics

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required to teach in a public or private school
Degree Field American Sign Language (ASL) or deaf education
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required to teach in public schools
Experience Teaching experience is required for work in public schools
Key Skills Instructional and communication skills; patience; ability to use computer-based training software, database user interface and query software, device drivers or system software, and voice recognition software
Salary (2014) $57,080 (Mean salary for all elementary and middle school teachers)
$59,180 (Mean salary for all secondary education teachers)
$67,910 (Mean salary for all postsecondary foreign language and literature teachers)
$41,020 (Mean salary for all self-enrichment education teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; O*Net Online.

Step 1: Determine Career Goals

Sign language teachers work in a variety of settings, from public and private schools to community colleges and universities, and teach students of varying ages. Before beginning their careers, prospective sign language teachers should determine what type of classes they want to teach, as well as who their desired audience is.

Step 2: Complete Necessary Education

Education and credentialing requirements for aspiring sign language teachers vary. Those who work for continuing education centers, businesses or other organizations will likely need some training and/or experience. Those who hope to teach sign language in elementary, middle or high schools need to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in deaf education or American Sign Language (ASL). If a student pursues ASL as a major, he or she also might want to undertake a concentration or minor in education. For those who want to teach at a community college or university, a graduate degree in deaf education or a related field may be necessary.

Step 3: Obtain a Teaching License

Aspiring sign language teachers who want to work in public schools must earn a teaching license, the requirements for which vary by state. These can include supervised teaching experience and passing scores on an exam in their subject area. In addition to attaining licensure, prospective sign language teachers might need an endorsement in ASL.

Step 4: Seek Sign Language Certification

The American Sign Language Teacher's Association (ASLTA) encourages sign language teachers to pursue professional certification. Three levels of certification are available, including provisional certification, qualified certification and professional certification. Each level has different requirements for hours of experience working specifically with deaf students, as well as with those learning sign language as a second language.

Step 5: Continue Education as Necessary

To retain licensure and certification, sign language teachers typically must engage in continuing professional development. Sign language certification renewal can be completed through ASLTA by submitting various examples of professional development, including a written narrative of teaching history since certification, proof of teaching experience and proof of professional development through things like professional workshops and mentorships. Requirements vary by state and level of certification. Continuing education also may be a viable method of career advancement for sign language teachers who want to advance to higher positions in academia, such as teaching at the university level.

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