American Sign Language Teacher Requirements

Regulations for sign language interpreter teachers or professors are always changing.  They vary based on education level, location, and teacher hearing status.  American Sign Language teacher requirements are different for K-12 teachers versus college or university level American Sign Language Teacher RequirementsASL teachers.  They are different if the students are Deaf or hearing.  They may also be different from state to state.  But whatever the requirements, the goal should be the same: qualified ASL instructors to foster an accurate language learning environment.

ASL Teacher Tests

There are three primary certifications offered for American Sign Language instructors.  The ASLPI has been administered by Gallaudet University since 2008.  Rochester Institute of Technology also administers a test called SLPI: ASL.  Finally, the longest running test is provided by ASLTA though it is always under revision according to their website.

  • The American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) was established as a holistic language evaluation for instructors of sign language. The 20-25 minute interactive interview is recorded and watched for scoring by evaluators.  Testers are rate 0-5 based on their overall language skills.

Watch an example below:

  • The Sign Language Proficiency Interview: ASL is very similar to the ASLPI. It is run by RIT but adheres to nearly identical guidelines as Gallaudet’s ASLPI.
  • The American Sign Language Teacher Association (ASLTA) originally created a test in 1976. It was revised in 1988 as a 3-level evaluation system.  ASLTA is currently working on transferring to a 2-level system with a Certified and a Master level, eliminating the Qualified level.  Also, in order to take the test, one must have a bachelor’s degree.

For more information in ASL, check out the following video:

Hearing or Deaf Teacher?

It is commonly accepted that native users of their language teach it best.  Whether they are teaching it to deaf or hearing students, it is typically best a person who is Deaf to teach their own language for as natural and accurate a learning process as possible.

Naturally, if given a choice between two equally qualified individuals, choosing a Deaf native signer may offer students an authentic and enriching experience to learn ASL from a Deaf teacher. Deaf teachers often can offer special insights to their students based in their experiences that hearing teachers may not be able to offer. Hearing teachers of ASL also may bring special strengths to the learning experience for students. (American Sign Language Teacher Association)

It is also recommended in some cases to use both Deaf and hearing teachers in the same classroom.  This will optimize language learning.

Hiring an ASL Teacher

School administrators, whether in K-12 or post-secondary educational settings, have the responsibility of hiring teachers for their classrooms.  They cannot have experience in all subjects they hire for so they must rely on other standards to select quality instructors.  Look for some of the following qualifications:

  • Do they have a degree from a college or university? Is it related to ASL or Deaf Studies?
  • Do they have any form of certification?
  • How long have they known sign language and are they fluent in ASL?

Concordia University in Oregon also suggests looking for the following qualities:

  • Comfortable with the intricacies and subtleties of social interactions
  • Sociable and easy to talk to
  • Patient and resourceful
  • Good at motivating and inspiring students
  • Organized and careful about time management
  • Devoted to learning
  • Service-oriented
  • Thoughtful about interacting with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Able to express ideas precisely in writing and in oral presentations
  • Qualified with a degree in an education-related field


It can be overwhelming to have the responsibility of determining American Sign Language teacher requirements when going through the selection and hiring process.  Refer to the resource websites for more information.  Your educators are critical to the development of the community.  And more specifically, ASL instructors pass on a community’s culture and language.






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