Do I need to have a degree to be an Interpreter?
No, you do not have to have a degree to become an interpreter but if you have the opportunity I highly recommend it. It is also rumored that some states are going to require interpreters to have a 2 year degree and Florida is one of them... any educational interpreter will have to be nationally certified and hold a 2 year degree, when this will take place is unknown at this time but the Florida DOE is currently working on implementing this policy as soon as possible. I have also heard that RID will require Nationally certified interpreters to hold a degree as well, whether it will be a 2 or 4 year degree is unknown, if you would like to know more about RID, visit their Web site.
Does Having a degree automatically make me an Interpreter?
No it does not! It takes a great deal of interaction within the deaf community as well as mentoring with Interpreters to enhance your skills, school alone is not enough. In regards to skill testing many states have a state level testing for interpreters and in some states they have a test for Educational Interpreters. RID and NAD offers National Certification for Interpreters. Having a degree as well as having a state interpreting level or National Certification will make a well-rounded interpreter.
If I can't go to school how can I become an Interpreter?
As stated above you should interact within the deaf community, attend deaf/interpreting related events and mentor as much as possible with qualified and nationally certified interpreters. You can also buy CD-ROM's, Video Tapes, ASL dictionaries and Books on interpreting. I suggest reading So You want to be An Interpreter: An Introduction to Sign Language Interpreting, 2nd Edition by Alcorn, Bob and Humphrey, Janice. However, it is important to know that these are only tools to help you in the learning process. Interaction and mentoring is VITAL to your career. Learn about your state's standards for interpreters and what testing they offer.
How/Where can I go to interact?
Look in your phone book for interpreting agencies, when you call ask about mentoring programs. You can also contact your local Deaf Service Center if your area has one. Many theatres that show plays/musicals provide interpreters for deaf patrons, which would be a great observation. You can also observe educational interpreters in the school setting, contact your school district for a list of schools that offer a deaf and hard of hearing program.
If you live in the Tampa, Florida area then you can check out my Florida Resources page.