Interested in getting hired and helping others without ever saying a word? There has never been a better time to explore one of the many rewarding careers in American Sign Language (ASL).
As the primary language used by the Deaf and hearing impaired in the U.S., ASL combines hand movements, facial expressions and posturing to help Deaf individuals connect with the world. While the number of students learning ASL has been steadily on the rise in the past decade, many don’t realize the actual demand for ASL speakers in the workplace.
The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that approximately 37.5 million American adults, or 15 percent, suffer from some type of hearing loss. The NIDCD also reports that about 2 -3 out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. These numbers drive home the real need for skilled ASL speakers in the workplace. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of ASL interpreters and translators is projected to grow 18 percent through 2026 — significantly higher than the industry average.
From education and healthcare to customer service and the arts, there is no shortage of demand for ASL interpreters and speakers. Whether you are a certified interpreter, have basic fluency or are considering taking our online ASL courses — these are top 10 careers that you need to know about.
1. Sign Language Interpreters
ASL Interpreters convert spoken language into sign language for those who are Deaf or hearing impaired. Professional interpretation requires certification and years of development, but it is a dynamic skill that opens the door to a wide range of career options.
From board meetings and educational presentations to court appearances and healthcare consultations, any industry that requires accurate communication needs more ASL interpreters. Interpreters will have even more opportunities with video relay and video remote interpreting services as technology continues to evolve.
2. Speech-Language Pathologists
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are essentially communication experts. As an SLP, you evaluate speech, vocal and cognitive communication issues and teach alternate communication methods or therapies. While this career typically requires a master’s degree and supervised clinical work, the investment in education is well worth it for this meaningful career.
For veteran teachers looking for new challenges or those considering a future career as an teacher, mastering ASL can greatly expand your job opportunities. Not only can you be a resource in your school for those in need of ASL support, but you can also become an ASL teacher for Deaf students and their parents. Even something as simple as incorporating basic ASL (the alphabet, simple vocabulary, etc.) into elementary school curriculum gives students a window into another way of living that could spark a future passion for ASL communication.
Individuals throughout the Deaf community often report discrimination in job interviews and in the workplace. As a manager with ASL experience, you can help create a more inclusive work environment for all by taking on a leadership role within companies and organizations.
As an audiologist, you evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders. This includes hearing loss, tinnitus and auditory disorders for patients of all ages. Becoming an audiologist requires a four-year graduate program in addition to a four-year undergraduate degree.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you can incorporate that into your ASL career by consulting for corporations, businesses and organizations, or for individuals. Consultants with ASL training can help clients succeed in the workplace and in life by making sure they are communicated with effectively.
7. Healthcare Interpreters
Most of us struggle in doctor’s offices and hospitals to understand medical terminology, especially in crisis situations. Patients and their families who are deaf or hearing impaired face even more dire frustrations. By adding ASL credentials to your experience as a doctor, nurse, EMT or other healthcare profession, you make yourself particularly attractive in the job market.
Living in a non-signing world is extremely challenging, isolating and even disabling for those in deaf and hearing-impaired communities. By being a counselor or therapist skilled in ASL, you can focus your practice or work in schools and other settings where clear communication is critical.
9. Law Enforcement and Government Officials
People who know ASL are always needed in local, state and federal governmental agencies, as well as in law enforcement, judicial and detention settings. Positions vary from police officer to equal opportunity office worker. Adding ASL to your resume gives you more opportunities to specialize in your field and potentially help individuals in moments of crisis.
10. Tour Guides and Hospitality Workers
Let’s not forget that ASL speakers are a vital part of the entertainment and hospitality industries. Use your skills to help people enjoy a play, tour a museum tour or take their dream vacations.
If you think a career in ASL is for you, consider enrolling in Foundations of American Sign Language with Columbia Online. Through this fully-online course, you’ll have the opportunity to learn and interact with internationally-known Deaf instructors with extensive experience teaching ASL. Build your conversational skills in ASL so you can better communicate with Deaf individuals in your personal and professional life.
Want to become even more proficient in ASL? We also offer an Intermediate American Sign Language course. Receive weekly, one-on-one feedback from our expert instructors while you immerse yourself in the rich culture of the Deaf community. With Columbia Online, you’ll develop skills that empower you to become an advocate for Deaf individuals while improving your marketability.