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What Is a Sign Language Interpreter Salary Like?

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Updated May 23, 2014

Question: What Is a Sign Language Interpreter Salary Like?
What is a sign language interpreter salary like? It depends on where the sign language interpreter works, both in terms of environment and geographic location. Pay also depends on whether the interpreter is certified, is full- or part-time, and what their level of certification is.
Answer:

There are multiple types of certifications usually listed in job listings for sign language interpreters. Two are no longer offered: the Certificate of Interpretation (CI) and the Certificate of Translatiteration (CT), both from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has three interpreting certificates: NAD III (Average Performance), NAD IV (Above Average Performance), and NAD V (Superior Performance).

A very desirable qualification is the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) from the RID, which comes in three levels: NIC, NIC Advanced, and NIC Master. As of June 2012, a Bachelor's degree in interpreting will be required to obtain certification from the RID. This higher educational requirement, combined with the RID certification, is expected to have an impact on salaries.

Many sign language interpreting jobs are available, but not all the job listings specify salary. The results below should therefore be considered indicative and not definitive. In addition, the salaries cited are circa April 2011, and subject to change over time.

Sample Salaries in Educational Settings

A search of Monster.com on "sign language interpreter" found an advertisement from the Los Angeles Unified School District offering $25.75 - $32.03 per hour. (That's from about $53,000 to about $65,000 annually if working a full-time 40-hour week.) A community college in Bakersfield, California was offering a minimum salary of $27.12 per hour and a maximum salary of $32.93 per hour for an interpreter with at least a NAD level 4 certification. A college in Victorville, California was offering $14.87/hour for a part-time, level I interpreter -- an entry-level position.

Sample Salaries in the Federal Government

A check of USAJobs.gov, the federal government's jobs site, found a listing for a Department of Defense interpreter at $38,790 to $50,431 a year. The listing stated desirable qualifications included certification at NAD level IV or V. Another listing for a sign language interpreter at the Central Intelligence Agency offered $74,872 – $115,742 for essentially the same qualifications.

Sample Salaries for Video Relay Service Interpreters

How much do video relay service interpreters earn? A check of several video relay services' job listings failed to find any indication of salary. However, Indeed.com has a "find salaries" feature that finds average salaries in a location. In Alpharetta, Georgia, the average salary of a video relay service interpreter is $40,000. In Washington, DC, the average is a bit higher: $44,000. However, in Peoria, Iowa, it is only $38,000 average. It is even lower in Tampa, Florida, with an average pay of $36,000. In high-cost New York City, it is $48,000.

Finding more official statistics on interpreter salaries is difficult. The U.S. Department of Labor does track salaries for interpreters and translators, but does not separate sign language interpreters out as a stand-alone category. This, unfortunately, makes their Occupational Outlook Handbook unhelpful to future sign language interpreters as a resource for investigating salaries.

Source:

Generalist. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. http://www.rid.org/education/edu_certification/index.cfm. Accessed April 2011.

Readers Respond: Video Relay Service Interpreting vs Community-Based Interpreting

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