How to Become a Sign Language Teacher: Career Guide

Aug 08, 2018

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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  • 0:02 Sign Language Teachers
  • 1:42 Step 1: Education
  • 2:26 Step 2: Teaching License
  • 2:49 Step 3: Certification
  • 3:17 Step 4: Continuing Education

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Sign Language Teachers

Sign language teachers provide instruction in signing, or non-verbal, visual communication, to deaf students and those learning it as a second language. In addition to English, they must be fluent in American Sign Language, which has its own grammatical structure and incorporates the use of body language, finger spelling, and signing. Sign language teachers need good communication and instructional skills and patience. They should also be able to use a variety of different computer programs, including database user interface and query software and voice recognition software.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary information specifically for sign language teachers, in May 2015 it reported that elementary school teachers in general who did not work in special education earned an average annual salary of $57,730. During the same month, secondary school teachers overall earned an average yearly salary of $60,440. 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, they should determine what type of classes they want to teach and their desired audience. In this next section of the video, we'll take a look at some of the education requirements for sign language teachers.

Step 1: 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. Sign language teachers who want 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). Students who pursue ASL as a major might want to undertake a concentration or minor in education. Those who want to teach at a community college or university might need a graduate degree in deaf education or a related field.

Step 2: Teaching License

Aspiring sign language teachers who want to work in public schools must obtain a teaching license. Requirements vary by state, but can include supervised teaching experience and passing scores on a subject area exam. In addition to a license, prospective sign language teachers might need an endorsement in ASL.

Step 3: Certification

The American Sign Language Teacher's Association (ASLTA) encourages sign language teachers to pursue professional certification. There are three levels, including provisional, qualified, and professional certification. Each level has different requirements when it comes to the number of hours of experience working specifically with deaf students and those learning signing as a second language.

Step 4: Continuing Education

To retain licenses and certification, sign language teachers typically engage in continuing education. They can renew their certification through ASLTA by submitting examples of professional development, including a written narrative of their post-certification teaching history and proof of teaching experience and professional development, like professional workshops and mentorships. Requirements vary by state and level of certification. Continuing education can also help sign language teachers who want to advance to higher positions in academia, such as teaching at the university level.

Let's review. Sign language teachers who want to teach at the public school level usually need a bachelor's degree in deaf education or American Sign Language (ASL). As of May 2015, elementary school teachers earned an average annual salary of $57,730, while high school teachers earned $60,440.

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