After reading a book about the life of Helen Keller, Tracey Stack became interested in American Sign Language. But learning the language for herself wasn’t enough—she also wanted to help other people communicate.
So Stack earned a bachelor’s in ASL/English interpreting at Goshen College (www.goshen.edu) in Goshen, Ind., and became a sign language interpreter.
Stack is self-employed as an interpreter. Once she is contracted for a job, she has to research the jargon and topic online so she’s prepared for the conversation. She then interprets between users of sign language and English, then travels on to the next job.
Each job has a unique setting—from doctor or dentist offices to insurance companies, conferences, educational classes, even soccer practices and phone calls. She has interpreted for professional video shoots with deaf directors and actors, and for state senator’s speeches.
“There are some weeks I may be at one site for an extended period of time,” she says. “Any situation where two people interact, there may be need for an interpreter.”
In addition to having a bachelor’s in ASL/English interpreting, Stack also attends conferences and workshops to maintain her certification.
That constant learning and practicing of the language is crucial for interpreters.
“It is very important to have a well-rounded body of knowledge to interpret and regular interaction in the deaf community,” she says. “I love the variety of situations and the people I am able to meet. In this field, it is important to keep the mind open to new experiences and continue to learn. I like the challenge of working with two different languages and cultural groups.”
National average salary: $16.28/hour
Education: Bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language/English interpreting. Certification is available but not required. There is a growing demand for Spanish speaking ASL interpreters, too.
Typical day: Sign language interpreters must research the topic of the conversation they are about to facilitate so they’re not thrown off by any jargon. They then travel to the job’s location, translate, then travel to the next job.
Pursue if: You like people and are a good communicator. You are excited about the challenge of interfacing two different cultures and languages.
For more information on becoming an American Sign Language Interpreter, visit Goshen College at http://www.goshen.edu/asl.
To discover other careers, visit nextSTEPmag.com/careers.