Sign language helps people who cannot hear communicate with the hearing world in many settings including schools, businesses, social services and medical arenas. In 2008, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, in conjunction with other organizations, passed a rule that requires an associate degree for people who want to interpret sign language professionally.
An associate degree is required for those with hearing to become certified as deaf interpreters. Deaf people who wish to become interpreters will be required to have an associate degree after June 30, 2012, according to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Many community colleges as well as four-year institutions offer associate degrees in American Sign Language and interpreting for the deaf. At St. Petersburg College in Florida, for example, students take classes including American Sign Language, deaf culture, finger spelling, interpreting and educational interpreting. Frequently these programs take about two years to complete.
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has a test it gives students upon completion of a degree program. The first part is either written or on computer and is multiple choice, testing general knowledge. If candidates pass this test, they may take a performance test that involves being filmed while signing, voicing and interpreting. Interpreters are required to recertify every four years and receive continuing education credits. This test is called the National Interpreter Certification and is given jointly by RID and and the National Association for the Deaf.
The generalist certification shows a general knowledge of interpretation; understanding of ethical decision making and the ability to translate spoken language into sign language and sign into spoken language. There are a variety of certifications in this area to show the interpreter is qualified to handle a variety of interpreting assignments.
Interpreters may specialize in several areas, like business, medicine or interpreting for elementary or high school students in the academic setting. The only area for which RID has a special certificate is in the interpretation of legal issues.