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British sign language interpreter language professional

British sign language (BSL) interpreters help deaf and hearing people communicate with one another.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £35,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need a degree or level 6 award in both BSL and interpreting. You could take BSL qualifications at a lower level and work your way up.

You’ll also need to register with the National Registers of Communications Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people (NRCPD).  

You could become qualified by registering as a:

  • trainee sign language interpreter (TSLI)
  • sign language interpreter (RSLI)
The  NRCPD has more on approved courses and qualifications.

Getting involved in deaf clubs or centres for deaf people is a good way of making contact with deaf people.

The Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) has information on deaf clubs and centres for  deaf people.

The British Deaf Association (BDA), Action on Hearing Loss and RAD have information and training on deaf awareness and all aspects of working with deaf people.

You’ll need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent spoken and written English
  • accurate and fast BSL skills
  • the ability to develop strong relationships
  • confidence when speaking in public
  • the ability to keep up intense concentration and think quickly

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • preparing before assignments
  • listening carefully to, or watching, what is said or signed
  • interpreting what is said or signed
  • finding the best way to express everything that is said or signed

Many interpreters are self-employed and work for the police or hospitals.

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £22,000

Experienced: £24,000 to £28,000

Highly Experienced: £35,000

Fees and salaries for BSL interpreters vary widely depending on experience, employer and location.

Freelance interpreters can earn £25 to £30 an hour, and many contracts have a 2 or 3 hour minimum booking.

You may receive extra payment for preparation time, travel and for working unsocial hours.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You may work irregular hours if you’re freelance, which could include evenings and weekends.

You’ll usually work normal office hours if you’re employed by a company.

6. Career path and progression

You could teach and assess others, sign at theatre or television performances, or move into research.

You could also become self-employed and work freelance.

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Last updated: 14 September 2017