Sign language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Schools, government agencies, hospitals, court systems, and private businesses employ interpreters. Interpreters work in a variety of settings including medical, legal, religious, mental health, rehabilitation, performing arts and business.

As you begin your journey of discovery into the profession, we hope that you will utilize RID as the go-to resource and consider how RID membership would benefit you at this stage of your development.

Whether you are a beginner, an advanced signer or a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), RID is here to help you understand what it takes to become a professional and qualified interpreter. Fascination with sign language and/or the desire to “help” are admirable, but these alone are not qualifications to be interpreting for persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Patience, persistence, dedication and professional training are just some of the few key elements that are crucial to becoming a successful interpreter.

Interpreting as a Career

There is a strong need for qualified interpreters with credentials as we are currently experiencing a period in the interpreting field where supply is not keeping up with demand. The greatest demand for interpreters is in medium-to-large cities. The more mobile you are, the more likely you are to find an interpreting job.

Interpreters typically fall in one of three categories

  • Agency interpreter, meaning that you are employed by an agency that provides you job assignments.
  • Free-lance interpreter, meaning that you are responsible for finding and maintaining your own client base
  • Contracted interpreter, meaning that you take on aspects of both the agency interpreter and the freelance interpreter. You provide services to an interpreter services agency or to other agencies in accordance with the terms and conditions of a particular contract or contracts. You are not an employee of the interpreter services agency or any other agencies for which they provide services

Interpreter Salaries

Salary statistics for interpreters is very difficult to find as salaries vary depending on many factors. These include:

  • geographical area (rural areas tend to pay less than urban areas)
  • education
  • amount of experience
  • credentials
  • type of interpreter, such as freelance, contracted or agency

You may want to call interpreter referral agencies and school systems to get specific information about the area of interpreting that interests you.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides occupational employment and wages for interpreters and translators. This information, which is from May 2013, includes foreign language translators, so it is not a complete and accurate representation of the sign language interpreting field.  http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/print.pl/oes/current/oes273091.htm
Other resources regarding the salary of interpreters:
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm
http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2002/summer/art02.pdf