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Road to Interpreting for an Agency

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by Christina Yi on 1 May 2013

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Transcript of Road to Interpreting for an Agency

The profession of sign language interpreting is relatively young, dating back only a few decades. Let's look back to understand how professional interpreting came about and what significance they hold for Deaf people now. There are many opportunities for employment in sign language interpreting. Most full-time interpreters either work for an agency (or agencies) or work for an independent school district (Humphries, page 390). Becoming a Professional Interpreter Exploring employment options... In the past, sign language interpreters were unpaid volunteers, mostly family members of deaf people, teachers of the deaf, or religious leaders. Standards were low because there was no education, no laws, no compensation. Let's explore option one, working for an agency... Civil rights movement of 1960s was pivotal, making way for greater opportunities for the Deaf community in America. The NAD and other organizations were established, giving the Deaf more access and greater exposure. The RID was formed, bringing high standards to the sign language interpreting profession. Training, certification, a formal code of ethics and laws protecting Deaf people and interpreters followed. As a result, interpreters in the US today are highly trained, highly sought, well paid professionals. Sources:

Humphrey, Janice H. 2007. So You Want To Be An Interpreter. Renton, WA: H&H Publishing Company.

Personal Interview with Debbie Glass-Stufflebean, Professional Development Coordinator, Visual Communication Services

Personal Interview with Whitney Gissell, GHID and Staff Interpreter, MD Anderson

Personal Interview with Elaine Robertson, KISD Deaf Education

Personal Interview with Tiara, Certified Interpreter, Lonestar College and Nightingale

www.vcsoncall.com Agency interpreters have flexible schedules, plentiful opportunities, and generally higher pay scale than ISD interpreters. Interpreters who were interviewed reported high job satisfaction, and recommended that I pursue agency employment upon certification. Assignments may require long distance travel, unpredictable situations, unstable schedules. Clientele may change daily, so the opportunity to build relationships may be limited. If you choose to work for an agency as an independent contractor, you would be responsible for your own taxes and insurance. Now let's look at working for the school system... Working with deaf children is rewarding in and of itself. There is the inner satisfaction of building relationships with children and families. You are paid all year round, but you only work 9.5 months. A 35K salary would then be the equivalent of a 45k salary for a year-round job. Interpreters working fulltime for the school district would enjoy the same benefits package as teachers and other fulltime employees. ISD interpreters generally earn less than agency employees. Opportunities might not be as varied, perhaps more possibility for burnout and less job satisfaction The schedule is like a teacher's schedule, so it is not as flexible as being an independent contractor with one or more agencies. In order to be employed as an interpreter, you must pass the State or National Certification exam. Most agencies and school districts require that their full-time interpreters possess a BEI or RID certification. There are other specializations and certifications required for different interpreting setting, such as medical, legal, and trilingual interpreting. Pay rates are determined based on level of certification, years of experience, etc. There are pros and cons no matter which you choose, so it really depends on what you are willing to do. The general consensus among interpreting professionals is that the jobs are waiting out there, so it's up to you to choose your career path. The future looks bright! Recommendations given to me by interpreting professionals:
Try to observe a variety of settings during training and internship.
Find a mentor.
Take opportunites to get your feet wet. ASL words I learned:
history
important
law
NAD
RID
interview
certification
agency
insurance
organizations After researching this topic, I have concluded that I need to observe various settings in order to decide. I am in contact with two agencies to find out if I can observe certified interpreters on assignment. I am also working at a Deaf Education campus in Katy ISD to find out more about the ISD option. To be honest, I was leaning towards agency work, but after many interviews and further research, I can appreciate the benefits to both. There might be a commute for long distance assignments. It's an adventure interpreting in different settings, such as blind dates, church services, or even for the CIA!
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