choosing a school
How do I choose from the more than 130 interpreting programs across the U.S.?
Associate Degree or Bachelors Degree?
If you're looking for an undergraduate program, you'll want to choose one that positions you best to move toward national certification, which will soon require you to have a Bachelors degree. There are around 25 Bachelors degree programs across the country. All the rest are Associate degree programs. But keep in mind...not all Associate degree programs are alike. Look for a program that has a transition plan in place to move students from the Associates to the Bachelors degree level. Often this means that the Associate degree program has an articulation agreement with a four-year institution.
Already have a Bachelors Degree?
You can find interpreting certificate programs designed for students who already have a Bachelors degree. The certificate demonstrates that you've completed required coursework in interpreting. You can check with the programs you're considering to see if this is an option. There is also a small number of Masters degree programs in interpreting.
Language learning is key to success as an interpreter. Look for a solid language program including American Sign Language, Deaf Culture, Deaf History, and American Sign Language Linguistics. If you already know some ASL, most programs have a screening process to place students at their appropriate level. Be sure instructional faculty are fluent in ASL - native, or near-native signers - and experienced teachers. Ask whether the program includes faculty who are certified by the American Sign Language Teachers Association. The program should encourage its students to interact with the Deaf and Deafblind Community through practicum or service learning opportunities. Because interaction with the Deaf community is so important, ask about the local Deaf community and opportunities for students to become involved in the community.
Breadth of Knowledge
Interpreters need breadth and depth in world knowledge. You'll want to find a program that offers a strong liberal arts education in addition to language, culture, and skills related to interpreting.
A strong program will have faculty who are both skilled teachers and active interpreting practitioners able to bring the real world into your classroom. Look for a program whose teachers are themselves life-long learners and who are involved in their professional organization, the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.
The Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) was established as the national accrediting body for interpreter education programs. A list of accredited programs may be found at http://www.ccie-accreditation.org/09/Accredited.html.
Make sure the program you choose gives you opportunities to observe interpreting and work in the field under supervision. Most programs will offer courses called "Practicum" or "Internship." The best programs will provide experiences in a variety of community settings with highly skilled, certified interpreters to supervise your work.