5 Top Careers for Deaf People

Jobs for Which ASL and Cultural Competency Are Invaluable

Teacher showing pre-school girl sign language
Qualified teachers for the deaf can make anywhere from $50,000 to over $60,000. Juan Silva/Getty Images

Hearing or not hearing does not impair your ability to achieve what you want to achieve. While there may be careers for which you are less suited, the same would apply to anyone searching for a career path. We all have our skills, talents, and limitations.

If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, here are five career choices you may want to consider:

1. Sign Language Interpreter

Even if you already know American sign language (ASL), becoming a professional sign language interpreter requires extensive training to attain the linguistic proficiency to communicate complex, conceptual, and sometimes technical information to diverse audiences.

There is a strong need for qualified interpreters in all fields with the supply rarely keeping up with the demand.

Salaries can vary, but graduates with certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) can make upwards of $60,000 annually based on experience, industry, and location.

2. Social Work

There is always a need for social workers who are culturally competent and able to communicate with deaf clients. To become a social worker, you would need to obtain a minimum of a bachelor's degree. If you decide to pursue your master's, you don't need a baccalaureate in social work to do so; a liberal arts degree would be just fine.

While many universities offer excellent master's programs in clinical social work, Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. is the only tertiary institution the United States with as a specialist emphasis on deaf and hard-of-hearing populations

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can make upwards of $50,000 per year, depending on location and industry sector.

3. Education

There is a severe shortage of qualified teachers for the deaf, particularly those skilled in ASL as a native language. For this career path, you would need a minimum of a bachelor's degree with a specialty in ASL or deaf education. While not required in most states, the American Sign Language Teacher's Association (ASLTA) strongly encourages teachers to pursue professional certification, as well.

The average salary for special education teachers in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary schools hover in the mid-$50,000 range. Those for high school are slightly higher, while salaries for post-secondary schools can extend well into the mid-$60,000 range (particularly for teachers of foreign language or literature).

4. Speech/Language Pathologist

This is a field that will probably increase in demand now that more deaf children and adults are receiving. cochlear implants. A master's degree program in speech/language pathology generally takes two years after completing your bachelor's. The program will be largely focused on phonetics, acoustics, anatomy, physiology, and developmental psychology.

To become a speech/language pathologist, some states will require you to attend a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Council on Academic Accreditation. Expect annual salaries in the $70,000 range and above.

5. Audiologist

This is a field that will never go out of demand and may increase now that newborn hearing screening laws are in place. Audiology is the branch of science which studies hearing, balance, and related disorders and whose practitioners treat or prevent hearing loss.

Audiologists must earn a postgraduate degree to begin practicing. The audiology degree (AuD) is a four-year program you can enter if you have a bachelor's degree in any field. Annual salaries start in the mid-$70,000 range and higher.

Source:

Task Force on Health Careers for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Communities. "Final Report: Building Pathways to Health Careers for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community." Washington, D.C.; March 2012.

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