The Value of Higher Education for Sign Language Interpreters

~Authored by Shelly Tisius

In 2002, when I began my interpreting career, Missouri state law only required a high school diploma to be certified as a sign language interpreter to work in the state.  Though not required under state law, I personally wanted higher education as I entered my working years.  I admit not truly understanding the value of higher education for sign language interpreters at the time, but I am grateful for my decision and for the opportunities that inevitably shaped my career.


Not only do I love to learn; but when working as a sign language interpreter, you never know what will come out of your work day.  An interpreting job that takes place in a school setting may be for a student with mental illness.  Learning as much as I could about a variety of topics has enabled me to be diverse in my understanding of the various topics and contexts of my interpreting work.  The value of higher education for sign language interpreters ensures that they are prepared to handle almost any topic that arises.

People Skills and Navigating the Community

Knowledge is just one value of higher education for sign language interpreters, but the daily interaction with a diverse population is also valuable.  Just as we navigate learning and working alongside diverse students in a classroom, sign language interpreters must interact with various hearing and Deaf clients throughout the work day.  This constant interaction with people unconsciously prepares us for future work and provides us life experiences that cannot be duplicated in a formal classroom environment.

I admit, I LOVE education and learning about new things.  I blame it completely on my original coursework at the community college level.  Today, I still refer to my coursework and experiences from my community college and university education. The value of higher education for sign language interpreters cannot be measured.  I encourage anyone who intends on becoming a sign language interpreter to consider coursework in various topics of interest since you never know what you’ll use.  You never know where life will take you, and I promise you won’t regret it!


Additional Resources:


Photo credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review