How to Become a Sign Language Interpreter?

Are you thinking of becoming a Sign Language Interpreter or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Sign Language Interpreter, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Sign Language Interpreter job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
"Interpreter" was the nearest match for you query "Sign Language Interpreter".

Steps to Become an Interpreter

An interpreter translates the spoken word, written word, and other materials from one language to another. Interpretation of a language requires more than fluency in that language. You should also have an understanding of the culture that a language belongs to. Languages are loaded with sociocultural context, and if you don't understand a particular culture, your interpretation can lose meaning and be less effective than the source you are interpreting. Once you commit to fluency in the language that you want to interpret and an understanding of that language's culture, you're ready to take the following four steps:

Earn the necessary interpreter qualifications.

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in interpretation or a degree in the language you plan to interpret. Most language degree programs require some cultural immersion, which can be helpful in your future career. You might also consider your field of specialization when choosing an educational path. For example, a bachelor's degree in legal studies can help you pursue a career as a courtroom interpreter.

If you're interested in pursuing a career as a freelance interpreter, consider pursuing a master's degree. A master's program provides students with more thorough training for a variety of instances where an interpreter might offer their services. Plus, you'll expand your knowledge of interpreting practices that you're sure to end up using as a freelancer.

What type of degree should you pursue to become an Interpreter?

100% of people working as an Interpreter earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be an Interpreter?

  • English Speaking
  • Foreign Language
  • Languages
  • American Sign Language
  • Fluent IN Spanish
  • IN Spanish
  • Native English Speaker
  • Willingness to LEARN
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as an Interpreter in the United States.

Apply for interpreter internships.

As you pursue your degree, consider applying for available interpreter internships, especially if you're close to completing your bachelor's degree or about to enter a post-graduate program. Working as an intern will give you experience in the field, which is necessary to jumpstart your career, especially if you want to work as a freelancer. Clients prefer to work with interpreters who have proven experience. An internship will also look good on your resume if you plan on applying for a position in government, law, or medical care.


Find a job as an interpreter.

After you complete your internship, there's a chance you'll be offered a permanent position with the company. If not, it's time to start searching for a new interpreter job. If you're interested in pursuing a freelance career, consider starting out with an interpreter agency. An agency can help you find clients, build professional networks, and expand your knowledge of the field.


Continue your interpreter career development.

Keep in mind that whether you're a freelancer or a specialized interpreter, there's always room to grow as an interpreter. Consider joining a professional organization such as the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators or the International Medical Interpreters Association. These groups, along with the American Translators Association, provide members with online resources and are a great way to expand your network. If you decide to transition from freelancing to specialized interpretation, these organizations can also help you earn any necessary certifications.

Sign Language Interpreter Career Path

Interpreter I

2 - 4Years of Experience
$47K - $73K /yrMost Likely Range
Learn More


8+Years of Experience
$44K - $78K /yrMost Likely Range
Learn More

Interpreter III

5 - 7Years of Experience
$68K - $109K /yrMost Likely Range
Learn More

Total Pay Trajectory

Sign Language Interpreter Career Path

Interpreter I
Interpreter III
Are you paid fairly? Get a free, personalized salary estimate based on today's job market
Get Your Estimate

Related Careers in the Media & Communications Industry

Interested in other Media & Communications careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Sign Language Interpreter skills. Discover some of the most common Sign Language Interpreter career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Substitute Teacher
0% skills overlap
12% transitioned to Substitute Teacher