This online master’s degree program is designed for individuals who already know some sign language and want to become nationally certified interpreters. Through such programs, students learn to communicate with members of the deaf community on behalf of others in personal, legal and business situations. Such degree programs are intensive to the arts or to education and focus on developing the communication skills required for effective translation. Applicants must have at least an associate’s degree in interpretation or a bachelor’s degree in sign language, interpretation or a related program. There are not many online master’s degree programs of this kind available.
Program Information and Requirements
An online master’s degree program in special education with a sign language concentration takes about two years to complete. Although aspects of every course are available online, some courses are offered in hybrid format, requiring that students spend one weekend per semester on campus. Students may also be required to complete an in-person internship with a business or government system, although this can often be completed locally. Some courses require that students participate in a virtual classroom, where they demonstrate language competency by communicating with other students; other courses allow students to complete coursework at their own pace.
Students must have access to a webcam, as well as reliable high-speed Internet access and a computer. Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader are common software requirements.
Students entering this program have already completed general education courses as part of a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program. Students are also expected to have a background in sign language or interpretation, as well as the ability to work on their own and adhere to assignment due dates.
In this course, students learn to communicate with people from other cultures, with specific emphasis on the deaf community. They explore potential miscommunication and discuss general communication problems.
In this course, students learn specific signs for communicating with members of the deaf community within a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or doctor’s office. Signs for various diseases, illnesses, infections and symptoms are studied.
Conversation in American Sign Language
Students taking this practical course have the opportunity to communicate with one another and with members of the deaf community using American Sign Language. They gain practical experience discussing world events, politics, health care news, literature and other topics.
A certificate program in American Sign Language can lead to a career as a translator or interpreter for individuals who can communicate fluently. A bachelor’s degree is typically required to work as an interpreter or translator, but a language major isn’t always necessary; a certificate program can prepare bachelor’s degree holders for working specifically with the deaf community. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for all interpreters and translators will grow rapidly between 2014 and 2024, at a rate of 29%, due to a continued shortage of qualified applicants and increasingly popular video relay services (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for interpreters and translators, including those for sign language, in 2015 was $44,190, also per the BLS.
Upon completion of an online bachelor’s degree in ASL-English interpreting, students can pursue careers as translators or interpreters; positions are available at businesses, courts and schools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 20% of translators and interpreters were self-employed in 2014, potentially working part time and relying on supplementary income sources (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes that most employers require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree for this position.
A master’s degree program in special education with a concentration in sign language helps prepare students for careers as sign language instructors or special education teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for special education teachers was $56,800 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). This field is expected to continue to experience 6% employment growth between 2014 and 2024, also per the BLS. Special education teachers must be licensed in the U.S., and additional licensing requirements may apply. A master’s degree is generally not required to work as a sign language interpreter or translator, but it may potentially facilitate job opportunities or advancement.
Individuals who want to learn sign language may get basic training through an online certificate program. Those who want to delve deeper into the field and ultimately become a translator may seek a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in the field.