What Is a Typical Salary for a Sign Language Interpreter?

Adult training or seminar event with interpreter
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Salaries for sign language interpreters depend on where the sign language interpreter works, both in terms of environment and geographic location. Pay also depends on whether the interpreter is certified and whether the person works full-time or part-time.

Certifications

There are multiple types of certifications usually listed in job listings for sign language interpreters. The National Interpreter Certification (NIC) from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.

(RID) has become the standard credential. As of 2016, a Bachelor's degree in interpreting is required to obtain certification from the RID, whether the person is hearing or deaf. This higher educational requirement, combined with the RID certification, is expected to have an impact on salaries.

RID has several recognized certifications that are no longer available, including NIC Advanced, NIC Master, Certificate of Interpretation (CI), Certificate of Transliteration (CT), Comprehensive Skills Certificate (CSC), and others.

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). These are no longer offered but are recognized by RID. The organizations are working together to ensure coordination and understanding of the different credentials.

When applying for sign language interpreter jobs, it is likely you will see that preference is given to those who are certified or the job is only open to those with a current certification.

The most-desirable jobs are likely to require a certification.

Sample Salaries for Sign Language Interpreters

Many sign language interpreting jobs are available, but not all the job listings specify salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes sign language interpreters in their occupational outlook for interpreters and translators.

Because they do not report separately on sign language interpreters, these figures may not reflect that profession specifically. This data is updated regularly.  Their data can be checked with other online salary comparison sites. The figures provided of 2017 matched well with other sites specifically listing sign language interpreters.

  • Mean annual wage $51, 260
  • Median annual wage: $46.120
  • Mean hourly wage: $24.64
  • Median hourly wage: $22.17

Entry-level wages are around $34,000 per year.

Salaries by Industry

The highest-paying industry for sign language interpreters is the federal government. Entry-level salaries are at a GS-7 level. Interpreters may work for the Department of Defense, Veterans Health Administration, Central Intelligence Agency, and many other departments. The mean annual wage for federal sign language interpreters was over $77,000 in 2016. The wages are similarly high in the computer systems design and related services industry.

Wages are around the $60,000 per year level for sign language interpreters in junior colleges, colleges, universities, professional schools, and scientific research and development services.

The median wages are brought down by the lower earnings but high employment by elementary and secondary schools and in medical settings and hospitals.

In those industries, the mean annual wage is under $50,000.

Video Relay Service Interpreters

How much do video relay service interpreters earn? A check of salaries and hourly wages in late 2017 found job openings with an hourly wage of over $34 and annual wages between $43,000 and $50,000. These jobs often have the benefit of being able to work remotely.