Working as a Sign Language Interpreter

Ronald Reagan and Bill Pugin

Ronald Reagan and Bill Pugin

U.S. News and World Report recently asked this question.

What is it really like to work as a Sign Language Interpreter? What does it take to succeed? What are the work prospects for the future?
Sign-language interpreters rely on a set of quick hands to relay a speaker’s words to a hearing-impaired audience. “To be fluent [in sign language], that takes years,” says Janet Bailey, former government affairs representative for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Another set of interpreters works in spoken language. Some settings require both fluency in a second language and the ability to interpret that language in relation to a field rich in its own terminology. For example, those assisting non-English speaking individuals in a court room must have a concrete understanding of legal lingo, just as those working in a hospital should be well-versed in medical terms.
By 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 46 percent employment growth for interpreters and translators, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The field is on track to add more than 29,000 new positions during that period. As diversity in the U.S. increases and globalization continues at a breakneck pace, so will the demand for spoken-language interpreters. Job prospects are especially bright for those fluent in Chinese, German, Russian, Portuguese and Spanish. Sign language interpreters should also expect an employment boom, thanks to the popularity of video relay, a Skype-like service that enables people who are deaf to communicate with interpreters online. Greater interaction and trade among people throughout the globe and continued demand for military interpreters and translators should also pave the way for increased employment in this field for years to come.
The top-paying metropolitan areas are clustered on the East Coast and include the District of Columbia; Bethesda, Maryland; and Augusta, Georgia.
Augusta, Georgia??
For the interpreters and translators who work in the same setting on a daily basis, the job maintains a high degree of continuity. But the story is much different for those working independently. “The beauty of [the day-to-day] is it’s always different,” Bailey explains, adding that this is true “especially for freelancers and those who work in the community.”
Interpreters enjoy highly flexible schedules, particularly those working on a freelance basis. Depending on the work environment and the client, stress levels can vary. For example, working with children can be overwhelming for some. For others, it’s an opportunity to thrive.
U.S. News and World Report lists Sign Language Interpreting within the top 100 BEST jobs. Good to know!

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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

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