An interpreter program is a formalized education program with a dedicated curriculum that is offered through a college, university or technical school that prepares students for a career in the field of interpreting.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions that RID receives regarding interpreting programs. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Preparation for Earning Credentials

Beginning July 1, 2012, exam candidates will be required to hold a degree (any major) or submit an approved Educational Equivalency Application.  recorded in their RID account. While you may receive a degree in any field, one may find the background, skills development and theory learned in a recognized interpreter program are extremely beneficial in getting your national certification.

Most interpreter education programs provide you with the knowledge and skills to begin pursuing an interpreting career as well as a foundation to begin preparing for certification. Completion of a program is more like a driver’s permit that lets you operate in certain protected situations. Continued practice, participation in workshops and training experiences, and work with mentors will help prepare you to earn your certification. And certification opens many doors to a successful career for you in the interpreting profession.

Learning Sign Language

Sign language classes are offered throughout the community at schools and colleges, churches and recreation departments. Some of these are excellent, and some are very poor. The classes may be ASL, PSE, SEE or some mixture of all. Instructors may be experienced, professional educators, or people who have only taken a few classes themselves. Buyer beware!
Some things to consider or ask when choosing a class:

  • Is the instructor native or near-native fluent in American Sign Language (ASL)? Fluency in the language could be evidenced by RID certification or NAD or state Quality Assurance (QA) ratings in interpreting, or by an advanced or superior rating on the SCPI (Sign Communication Proficiency Interview). Be wary of instructors who just recently took classes themselves.
  • Is the instructor involved in the Deaf community and with professional organizations? It is very beneficial if the instructors have formally studied the language and the teaching profession. Credentials to look for include membership in the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) and/or the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) as well as organizations such as RID, NAD and Black Deaf Advocates (BDA).
  • What do you know about the organization offering the class? What is the history and reputation of the organization with regard to sign language education? Does the organization provide you with additional materials on sign language? Are you provided with information on what is happening in the Deaf community? Does the organization provide you guidance regarding your next steps once you learn the basics?
  • Does the Deaf community support this class and organization? People who are native ASL signers and involved in the Deaf community see “graduates” from various classes. Seek their guidance on which classes they recommend?
  • What has become of previous graduates of the class? What have they accomplished since they finished their studies? Has the class been helpful? Do they feel they learned what they needed?

Finding an Interpreting Program

There are college and university programs around the country. A majority offer associate degrees in interpreting, but the number of bachelor programs is increasing. Additionally, a handful of schools offer master degrees in interpreting.
For a list of available programs click here. Please note that this may not be a complete, up-to-date list. To confirm that the program is accredited, you can visit Please contact your local college, university or technical school to see what programs they may offer, if any. Also, contact your affiliate or local chapter for more information on interpreting programs in your area.

Choosing a Degree Option

To be a successful interpreter, you need a wide range of general knowledge. A degree is an important way to gain that knowledge. The higher the degree, the more diverse and complete your general knowledge will be. In many interpreting jobs in school systems, your salary is partly based on your degree. Interpreting is a very complex task and requires a high degree of fluency in two languages. Will you be able to master the language and the interpreting task during the length of the program you are considering?

In general, the more education a person can get, the better they will do. But, the quality of the education is important as well. Here are some questions to consider when choosing a program:

  • Is the program up-to-date and well respected by the Deaf and interpreting communities?
  • Are its faculty members affiliated with and actively involved in professional organizations?
  • What kind of credentials do they have?
  • Are the program graduates working in the field and getting their credentials?
  • What kinds of resources are available to students and faculty?