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A Career as a Sign Language Interpreter

Benefits to a Career in British Sign Language Interpreting

Have you ever thought about a career in British Sign Language Interpreting?

British Sign Language Interpreting is a great career for anyone who may want the following benefits in their role:

  • Most British Sign Language Interpreters work as freelancers and, as such, careers in British Sign Language Interpreting allow you to manage your own time and to work independently
  • A career in British Sign Language Interpreting presents you with a great opportunity for ongoing and continuous professional development and learning

Freelance British Sign Language Interpreters typically work in a variety of areas such as:

  • Legal – e.g. police, court and prison interpreting
  • Education – teaching or interpreting on behalf of Deaf students during lectures / lessons
  • Conferences
  • Media
  • Health
  • Social Work

As such a career in British Sign Language Interpreting is certainly never boring!

Qualifications for a Career in British Sign Language Interpreting

As with the road to any professional career, the route to qualifying for a career in British Sign Language Interpreting involves a fairly lengthy period of study and examinations. The average duration of study is approximately 4 to 6 years.

The qualifications involved are all recognised by the Registration Department of the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP). CACDP essentially forms the official awarding body and as such, you should ensure that any course that you undertake is – where possible, recognised and endorsed by CACDP. CACDP is one of the National Language Standards NVQ awards bodies and the principle British Sign Language qualification providers. The CACDP website is also a useful resource and will provide you with information in respect to local British Sign Language courses.

There are two routes open to those seeking a career in British Sign Language interpreting:

- Completion of NVQ Level four in Interpreting (British Sign Language>English) and a respective BSL qualification

- Completion of a university degree or post graduate qualification

The precursor for either of these two routes is typically BSL Level Two.

Levels of Registration

The level at which you are able to register as a British Sign Language Interpreter will depend on the degree of qualification held.

There are three registration categories in total:
  • Junior Trainee Interpreter (JTI)
  • Trainee Interpreter (TI)
  • Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters (MRSLI).

JTI’s and TI’s will be less able to engage in the more complicated or difficult assignments due to their relative lack of experience / qualifications. Full members of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters have far more freedom to participate in more demanding assignments. They are also likely to earn more. As such, if you are truly dedicated to a career in British Sign Language Interpreting, then it is certainly worth persevering until you have attained this status.

The following qualifications are the usual route to attaining MRSLI status:

  • CACDP NVQ Level 4 in Interpreting (BSL/English) and a respective BSL qualification
  • University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) Postgraduate Diploma in BSL/English Interpreting
  • Leeds University Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting Studies
  • Leeds University MA in Interpreting Studies

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