From Interpreting Student to Professional Interpreter

During an interpreter training program (ITP) or interpreter education programInterpreting Student to Professional Interpreter (IEP), we are taught many things but often in the hypothetical.  Once we graduate and receive your certification, a whole world of choices is opened to us.  But how do we know what are the right decisions to make when going from interpreting student to professional interpreter?  Here are a few tips.

Staff or Independent Contractor?

Sign language interpreters in Missouri and Illinois may work full time for an agency or as an independent contractor (IC).

Staff interpreters typically work from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.  They may have on-call hours as well.  They have a guaranteed salary and typically receive benefits.  The cons of this are that the interpreter may not have any say in what assignments they interpret for.  There is a certain amount of overhead that the interpreter must obey.

As their title suggests, independent contractors have more say in what assignments they accept.  They may now, however, be guaranteed full days assignments every day from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.  They may only be offered an assignment for two (2) hours in the morning and then two hours in the evening.  They may also rely on accepting last minute assignments.  This can make their life unpredictable.  But the uncertainly allows for flexibility in a vast number of experiences.

How many agencies should I work for?

Working for too many agencies can be overwhelming.  It may be best, as an independent contractor, to sign on with a couple to a few agencies.  This way you can devote a more available schedule to each agency thus getting more consistent work.  Gather as much information and advise about specific agencies before making your decision to sign on.

Local Agency vs. Foreign Language or Remote Agency?

In Missouri and Illinois, local sign language interpreting agencies are the most knowledgeable about the Deaf community and how to fill their needs.  There are few foreign language agencies who say they can provide sign language interpreting.  They will not, however, know what information to gather about Deaf clients or how to educate customers.  For similar reasons, out-of-state agencies do not have local information about Deaf clients or how to fill an assignment with an appropriate interpreter.  Consider this when choosing what agencies to work for.


It can be intimidating knowing where to start once you’ve graduated.  You are excited to get your hands up but also nervous.  What if you choose the wrong path?  Be encouraged.  Even if you choose one way, you are not tied to that for the rest of your career.  Gather recommendations, get some experience, and then find your groove.

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Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review