Careers in sign language offer opportunities

January 9, 2011 7:03:27 AM PST
If you are looking for a career change where there are job opportunities, rewards and good pay, a sign language interpreter may be the answer.

Harper College in Palatine's sign language interpreting program has been training interpreters for almost 40 years.

"Harper is very lucky to have a group of faculty that are committed, doesn't matter if that faculty is full-timer or part-timer, they've got their credentials to teach, but more important than that, I think they're loyal, and they're committed to the students," said Joan Fiske, the program coordinator.

"We've got approximately 50 students in the interpreting program," she said.

"Our interpreting program is 40 credit hours, and once a student begins the fun part of the interpreting program, it generally takes them five semesters to finish up," said Fiske.

"Students may work through various agencies, freelance agencies, in the area. They may work for video relay services. So, there are absolutely opportunities for individuals upon graduation," Fiske said.

Student Diane Knippen is almost finished

"My brother and sister are deaf, and I've had an interest in sign language interpreting my whole life. When my youngest went back to school, I decided I wanted to do something with a new career," said Knippen.

Judith Quezada says she loves this program.

"I've learned a lot, and I can't wait for next semester," she said. "My ultimate goal would be to work with Latino families-- but not limited to-- and to help educate parents and kids about American Sign Language."

Once she becomes an interpreter, Megan Wood will probably juggle two careers.

"After I became a hair stylist, one of my clients told me that I might make a good interpreter. She's an interpreter herself. So, I figured she knew what she was talking about," said Wood.

Sandi Werner has had several careers.

"I'm currently in sales, and before I was a budding young actress, and it's that I think what attracts me so much to the sign language is its very expressive and beautiful. I really enjoy that and hope maybe even interpret for the theater," she said.

"The average pay will depend on who's doing the hiring and will depend on the kind of credential that interpreter has. I would say that's anyway between 25 to 60 dollars an hour at the beginning," Fiske said.

"You work really hard no doubt about it, but I think the teachers are fabulous really supportive and they provide you with a lot of real world knowledge," said Werner.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming interpreter go, visit:,, and