How Do I Become a Deaf Interpreter?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 April 2018
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In order to become a deaf interpreter, a person must attain fluency in both sign language and spoken language. Special training in interpretation is often required as well, although a full degree program may not be necessary. Licensing requirements depend on the area, but typically involve testing the applicant to ensure that he or she is an accurate and adept interpreter. It is very common for a deaf interpreter to work on a freelance basis, so many people can start finding clients as soon as the appropriate qualifications have been gained.

The first qualification needed to become a deaf interpreter is to become fluent in sign language and spoken language. There are several different sign languages in the world, and people are usually fluent in the sign language used most frequently in the area in which they live. It is often necessary for the person to completely comprehend spoken language without assistance as well. Therefore, it can be difficult for a deaf person to work as a deaf interpreter.

There are degree programs designed to help a student become a deaf interpreter, and these programs are typically available primarily at the graduate level. Entrance into these programs often requires the student to possess a lower-level degree and have established fluency. The end result of taking these programs is often complete preparation for work as an interpreter in a specific field. Specialization in medical, legal, or academic interpretation can be a facet of the program as well.


Obtaining a license may be the last step to a degree program or may be undertaken separately. Depending on the area, different types of qualifications may be required. For legal reasons, it is important to obey the specific guidelines relevant to one's area if any exist.

A person who is trying to become a deaf interpreter can occasionally find steady employment through a company, but many people work on a freelance basis. Finding a steady job can be difficult at first, but with a strong portfolio and recommendations, it is typically possible to find a job. Looking into jobs that require special knowledge can be one way to get an edge over the competition. Volunteer work can also add to a person’s resume.

One important thing to remember when trying to become a deaf interpreter is that sign language often includes more than just the gestures used for communication. Learning about deaf culture is very important for an interpreter because gestures can be elaborated and customs must be obeyed for efficient communication. Many interpreters find that staying in close association with deaf people can help them stay up to date on current language usage.



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