Sign Language Interpreters

The job

An interpreter has the task of effectively facilitating communication between Deaf and hearing people. This complex process includes incorporating cultural information and requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive, and technical skill in both languages. Even when conversation is not happening, an interpreter conveys key environmental sounds and happenings.

Interpreters are:

  • Professionals (not volunteers) who undergo years of training in language and cultural competency.
  • Expected to have appropriate credentials, including industry-specific degrees, screenings, licenses, and certifications
  • Not helpers.


For most, the path to becoming a sign language interpreter requires attending an interpreter training program (ITP) for four years of training and education on the language, culture, community and interpreter roles, responsibilities, ethics, and the interpreting process. The ITP prepares students to qualify for a national exam to be a certified interpreter. In some cases, an interpreter may obtain a state screening as a first step. This screening also requires multiple parts and is evaluated by a panel of various expert stakeholders. Working alongside experienced mentors throughout their career helps better prepare interpreters to take on more challenging and diverse assignments.
  • Interpreter training (college programs) include 100-200+ practicum hours. Additional mentoring hours after graduation are needed to be qualified and ready to practice.
  • National certification(s) require minimum of a bachelor’s degree to sit for the two-part (written and performance) exam.
  • Additional training and practicum hours are required to specialize in legal, medical, and mental health interpreting.
  • Interpreters must complete a minimum of 80 hours of professional development training every four years to maintain national certification.

Did you know?

  • There are multiple screenings and certifications for sign language interpreters. These qualify an interpreter to work in a K-12 classroom, courts, and other settings. The only specialist certificate is the SC:L for legal court work.
  • Interpreters earn from $20-$125 per hour or more. The state where work is performed, the type of interpreting assignment, and the interpreter’s credentials influence the pay rate.
  • State regulations, laws, and credentials required to do various types of work (particularly in legal and educational settings) vary from state to state. Find requirements in my state

Demographics & Population

The main national governing body is the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).


  • RID members: 15,000 (certified, associate, student, supporting etc.)
  • Certified interpreters: 10,023 total; CDI (206); SC:L 321;
  • Ethnicity:
    • Euro American/White: 9,315 (appx 88-90%)
    • BIPOC: 1,689 (appx 12-15%)
  • Gender
    • Female: 9,763 (appx 95%)
    • Male 1,616
    • Nonbinary, Gender Fluid, Transgender etc.: 125
  • Audiological: Hearing: 10,557; Deaf/HoH: 516
  • State statistics: (certified HI/CDI)
    • CT 107/6
    • MA 263/16
    • ME: 76/2
    • NH: 56/2
    • RI: 23/2
    • TN: 153/1
    • VT: 28/2

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