Sign Language Interpretation Training Programs: How to Choose

Dec 05, 2019

Because American Sign Language (ASL) is the most widely used sign language in this country, most American schools teach ASL-English interpretation. Programs in ASL-English interpretation are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Sign language interpreters serve as a conduit between the deaf and the hearing in a variety of areas. The National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) offers a variety of certifications for sign language interpreters.

Schools with American Sign Language Programs

These schools offer ASL programs at varying levels, including certificate and bachelor's degree programs.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Tuition 2018-2019*
Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's $42,345
Kent State University - Kent Campus Kent, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $10,312 in-state, $19,014 out-of-state
University of Southern Maine Portland, ME 4-year, Public Bachelor's $8,918 in-state, $21,294 out-of-state
Bethel College Mishawaka, IN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $28,590
Augustana University Sioux Falls, SD 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $33,018
Idaho State University Pocatello, ID 4-year, Public Associate, Bachelor's $7,420 in-state, $22,940 out-of-state
Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $32,000
Western Oregon University Monmouth, OR 4-year, Public Bachelor's $10,197 in-state, $26,421 out-of-state

Sources: *School websites, National Center for Educational Statistics

School Selection Criteria

When seeking a school with sign language interpretation programs, there are some considerations to take into account.

  • Some schools require that students already have knowledge of sign language and deaf culture, so looking carefully into a school's admission requirements would be beneficial.
  • Students should research whether schools offer internship opportunities and provide faculty support to students participating in internship programs.
  • Certification is required by some states, so looking into schools that are dedicated to preparing students for certification testing should be helpful.
  • Students who work full-time may consider online or hybrid degree programs.

Bachelor's Degree in Sign Language Interpretation

Bachelor's degree candidates in sign language interpretation are exposed to the practical application of sign language and interpreting, as well as deaf culture and associated issues. The curriculum includes numerous sign language classes designed to help students become fluent in ASL. Internships are a requirement of many bachelor's degree programs.

Master's Degree in Sign Language Interpretation

Very few colleges offer master's degrees in sign language interpretation. Students are exposed to advanced opportunities to understand the practical, educational and theoretical applications of ASL. The curriculum is focused on research, writing and working one-on-one with the deaf and hearing impaired in a variety of circumstances. A thesis, field study or major research project is a requirement of most master's degree programs. Students are also typically required to complete an internship and/or a practicum.

Programs in ASL interpretation are typically available at the bachelor's degree level, although certificate, associate and master's degree programs do exist. Programs that prepare students for certification are the most beneficial.

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