14 Pros and Cons of Being an ASL Interpreter (With Duties)

Updated November 12, 2023

Translators and interpreters are responsible for converting information from one language into another. There are a variety of careers within this field that allow you to help others. One type of career to consider is an ASL interpreter, but it's important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of this role to determine whether it's right for you. In this article, we discuss what an ASL interpreter doe and review some pros and cons of being one.

Related: 8 Fulfilling Translation Careers and Their Benefits

What does an ASL interpreter do?

An American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter translates spoken messages into hand symbols for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition to communicating the message, they're responsible for reflecting the emotion or tone behind the message, helping the people truly understand their intentions. It's important for them to be fluent in both languages, and they may work with a variety of deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

While exact duties may vary for each interpreter and the type of work they do, some examples of common duties for ASL interpreters include:

  • Analyze sentences spoken in one language to explain them into another

  • Conduct research to prepare for interpretations

  • Follow a professional code of ethics, particularly regarding confidentiality and impartiality

  • Organize workloads and liaise with various organizations to determine contracts

  • Practice interpreter skills and develop a larger vocabulary

  • Prepare necessary paperwork and contracts

  • Review speeches, lectures and agendas to prepare for events

  • Take notes based on the conversations

  • Use technology, such as headsets and microphones

Read more: What Does an Interpreter Do?

Pros of being an ASL interpreter

Here are some pros of being an ASL interpreter:

1. Salary

Becoming an ASL interpreter may provide you with a well-paying career opportunity. The national average salary for ASL interpreters is $61,364 per year. However, it's important to remember that exact salaries may vary. Factors like experience, qualifications, geographic location and the specific employer may affect the exact amount that you earn.

2. Career outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of interpreters and translators to grow 24% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all other occupations. The BLS predicts an increased demand for ASL interpreters in particular as more organizations use video relay services. These services allow for conducting video calls and using a sign language interpreter for effective communication.

3. Ability to help others

Working as an ASL interpreter allows you to help other people. You're responsible for translating messages for people, helping them understand one another. This may be a rewarding career that helps you feel positive about your work.

Related: 35 Best Jobs for Helping People

4. Opportunity to learn new things

Being an ASL interpreter often provides you the opportunity to learn new things. For example, you may learn about new types of technology that assist you with your work or gain experience with other types of sign language. This career may also allow you to learn about different cultures and people through your everyday work.

5. Travel opportunities

Many ASL interpreters travel for their work . Through this, they might experience new cultures and places. For some ASL interpreters, this can prevent boredom with their career because they're constantly experiencing new things.

6. Variety of work environments

ASL interpreters work in a variety of settings for many industries. For example, they may work in the business, education, legal or medical industries. This allows them to work in settings like hospitals, classrooms and courtrooms. ASL interpreters may also work at special events, like workshops or conferences.

7. Ability to grow

ASL interpreters may have the opportunity to grow their careers. For example, earning professional certifications or learning additional languages may provide you with more job choices. Similarly, if you complete a freelance job for a company and it likes your services, there's a chance it may continue to hire you or offer you a full-time position.

Related: How To Become an ASL Interpreter in 6 Steps

Cons of being an ASL interpreter

Here are some cons of being an ASL interpreter:

1. Need for accuracy

Working as an ASL interpreter requires a complete understanding of what others say and mean and communicating it to others. This may involve understanding nuances, idioms, cultural connotations and technical context. One challenge that may occur is if a language doesn't have a direct translation for a word or phrase. However, practicing your skills can help prepare you for success.

2. Job competition

While there's a demand for ASL interpreters, there may also be competition for jobs. It may be competitive to secure the jobs that offer the best pay or benefits. However, earning additional certifications and building a good network may help you access the jobs that interest you the most and best align with your long-term career goals.

3. Lack of understanding

Some people don't understand the role of an interpreter. They may confuse it with being a translator, requiring you to explain your job frequently. However, this provides you with the opportunity to discuss your work and help others learn something new.

4. Searching for jobs

Many ASL interpreters work freelance rather than a consistent part- or full-time position. This requires you to search and apply for work regularly, which may be frustrating. However, this provides you with more control over your career and may allow you to pursue a variety of different projects.

5. Technical knowledge

Some ASL interpreting jobs require you to interpret technical terms or industry jargon. This may be difficult, especially if there are terms you don't use in everyday life or that have direct translations in ASL. If you're concerned about how to interpret something for a new or complex industry, consider asking for the materials in advance. This allows you to prepare better, and it may allow you to learn something to improve your knowledge for the future.

6. Lack of coworkers

Being an ASL interpreter is often a solo job without other coworkers. Also, you're a facilitator of conversations rather than a participant. This may result in you feeling lonely or left out from activities. Consider joining a professional organization that allows you to meet and connect with professionals who understand your feelings and experiences.

Related: 10 Tips To Help You Network Like a Pro

7. Stress

Working as an ASL interpreter may be stressful. For example, you may receive little to no notice about a job, or you may feel frustrated trying to interpret phrases at a new type of event. However, maintaining professionalism may help you succeed during stressful situations. Also, consider completing additional professional development courses to help you learn about interpreting common words or phrases for new industries.


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How To Earn Interpreter Certification

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