American Sign Language is not simply English in hand movements, but an entirely separate and distinct language, according to the American Sign Language Teachers Association. Fluency in a second language can improve your chances of finding a specific position or a job in general, as many companies may provide services to or do business with people who are deaf.
Fluency in ASL could lead to a position as an interpreter. A bachelor’s degree is the most common educational preparation for interpreters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although fluency in the language may be more important in some settings. On-the-job training is also required, and the BLS notes some interpreters specialize in both a second language such as ASL and a business area such as finance or health care. Interpreters and translators -- who translate written language only -- earned a mean annual wage of $53,410 in 2012, according to the BLS.
Interpreter Salary and Work Setting
Salaries for interpreters vary according to work setting and industry, as well as location, according to the BLS. Most interpreters worked in museums, historical sites and similar institutions; social advocacy organizations; junior colleges; community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services; and professional, scientific and technical services. Salaries in these areas ranged from $26,610 in museums, historical sites and similar institutions to $61,170 in professional, scientific and technical services. Elementary and secondary schools paid $41,560, interpreters in general medical and surgical hospitals earned $45,960, and colleges, universities and professional schools paid $58,560. Virginia was the top-paying state, with an average salary of $90,900.
In elementary, middle school and high school, teachers who teach ASL focus on the basics of language as an English teacher would in a class where all the students could hear, according to the ASLTA. The BLS notes teachers in these settings usually need a bachelor’s degree and complete an internship or residency as part of their training. Salaries for elementary and middle school teachers averaged $56,180, and high school teachers earned $57,510 in 2012, according to the BLS. Postsecondary teachers are more likely to teach ASL and Deaf Studies as an academic subject, according to ASTLA. A doctorate is the usual educational requirement, and the BLS says the average salary in 2012 was $73,770.
A child with deaf parents may learn English as well as ASL, and others may study ASL as they might French, Spanish or Russian. Like anyone with fluency in a second language, such people are often valued in settings that serve deaf people. Doctors and nurses, for example, must deal with people who speak different languages, one of which is ASL. Physicians need extensive and expensive education, although the rewards are high, with an average annual salary of $190,060 in 2012, according to the BLS. Registered nurses’ initial education ranges from a nursing diploma to a bachelor’s degree. The BLS notes the average annual salary for RNs in 2012 was $67,930.
- American Sign Language Teachers Association: Standards for Learning American Sign Language
- Association of Departments of Foreign Languages: Knowing Other Languages Brings Opportunities
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Interpreters and Translators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 27-3091 Interpreters and Translators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Middle School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: High School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
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