Sign Language Teacher Career Facts

A sign language teacher may work at the secondary or post-secondary level, as well as in nonprofits. Some sign language teachers will offer specific training to parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children.

Educational Background

Most sign language teachers possess at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as teaching certification if they are planning to teach in K-12 schools. According to College Navigator, 40 schools in the United States offer at least some training in ASL, and 16 of those schools offer a 4-year degree. Students can also choose to major in education, focus on special education and complete courses in ASL. You could also complete some courses in ASL while completing a language and/or linguistics degree.

Certification for the Sign Language Teacher

The standards for certification with the American Sign Language Teachers Association are quite high. An applicant for provisional certification will need to present a portfolio, including a videotape that demonstrates proficiency in ASL as well as a portfolio that documents at least 5 years of experience teaching ASL on a daily basis. Other professional documentation also falls into the mix.

The professional level of certification requires a portfolio with documentation of 240 hours of paid teaching, a submission of qualified professional certification and the successful completion of an examination. Professional certification also requires a bachelor’s degree or higher and the successful completion of 15 years of teaching ASL.

According to the website of the American Sign Language Teachers Association, state licensure is required in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. The requirements for licensure vary by state.

Tips and Advice

Prospective sign language teachers can complete an undergraduate or graduate degree in education or a bachelor's degree that includes at least six courses in ASL. Completing an education degree will help the prospective teacher learn about pedagogical principles, classroom management and special education. These courses can also assist in the certification process. While in school, you should accept volunteer, teaching assistant and internship opportunities that will help you develop your ASL fluency and teaching skills.

Look for volunteer opportunities. Even if you are already proficient or fluent in ASL, you should look for volunteer experiences to use your ASL or teaching skills. Education non-profits or specialized support and disability services on your campus will always be looking for volunteers or assistants who can provide interpretation skills, which will help with your ASL fluency. They may be looking for teaching assistants in ASL courses. These opportunities will help when you are looking for entry-level positions after college, since you will have already gained experience in the classroom using ASL and training speakers of ASL.

Career Outlook for the Sign Language Teacher

The current shortage of special education teachers also includes sign language teachers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increase in the number of students that require special education will encourage increased hiring of special education teachers. Sign language teachers will also have the opportunity to teach adult learners of ASL, such as college students and the hearing family members of deaf or hard-of-hearing children.