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Sign Language Interpreter

Sign language interpreters facilitate communication among deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and hearing people, using both English and American Sign Language (ASL) or French and Langue des Signes Quebecois (LSQ).

  • Avg. Salary $12,109.00
  • Avg. Wage $35.24
  • Minimum Education 2 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Interpreter, Language Specialist, Visual Language Interpreter

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Interpreters (5125.3) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters (F025) 
  • 2011 NOC: Translators, terminologists and interpreters (5125) 
Interest Codes
The Sign Language Interpreter is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Interest in listening to speakers or reading from texts in order to interpret statements made during speeches, meetings, conferences, debates and conversation, or in court or before administrative tribunals


Interest in analyzing information when listening to and watching the source language, in processing the content, meaning, context and affect, and in reproducing messages simultaneously, or consecutively


Interest in speaking to facilitate communication between individuals with differing languages

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2016

The process of interpreting is the same regardless of the languages involved. A message from 1 language and cultural context must be expressed accurately in another language and cultural context. An interpreter's goal is to facilitate communication and ensure a message-equivalent interpretation while refraining from counselling, advising or interjecting personal opinions. All spoken or signed utterances are interpreted.

Prior to appointments, sign language interpreters review relevant background information. Individuals requiring interpretation services are expected to provide this information in advance. For example, they may provide information about terminology or copies of working documents, meeting handouts, agendas or minutes. In educational settings, schools must provide texts, handouts, audiovisual materials and any other course materials so interpreters can become familiar with course theory and terminology.

In school settings, sign language interpreters may interpret:

  • for hearing or deaf teachers and with hearing or deaf students in classrooms and labs
  • during parent-teacher interviews
  • at tutorial sessions
  • in other situations (for example, when deaf students or deaf parents wish to use support services, participate in extracurricular activities or attend school meetings).
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Sign language interpreters provide interpretation services wherever communication is required. For example, they may work in settings such as:

  • business, legal, medical or social service offices
  • schools
  • religious settings
  • musical and theatrical performances
  • conferences and workshops.

Depending on their qualifications to practise, interpreters may be employed by interpreter referral services or agencies, or as independent contractors to interpret in medical, legal, conference, education, corporate or theatrical performance settings. Depending on the length and complexity of the assignment, interpreters may work in teams to facilitate communication, ensure message equivalency and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Following industry best practices in occupational health and safety, sign language interpreters typically work no longer than 15-20 minutes at a stretch, and no more than 22 hours a week.

Interpreters who work as independent contractors may choose to work irregular hours in addition to the standard 2-hour callout.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Sign language interpreters need the following characteristics:

  • impartiality
  • flexibility
  • objectivity
  • the ability to maintain client confidentiality
  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • physical stamina.

Interpreters should enjoy the process of interpreting and facilitating communication.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Sign language interpreters must have excellent spoken English or French skills and be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue des Signes Quebecois (LSQ). Certification is not required, but employers generally prefer to hire interpreters who:

For information about interpreter training programs in Canada, please see the AVLIC website.

Admission to an interpreter training program generally requires a high level of skill in American Sign Language. ASL classes are offered through Continuing Education at high schools and post-secondary schools. For more information, please contact or visit the websites of local school authorities and post-secondary schools.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Sign language interpreters may be employed by institutions or interpreter referral agencies or work as independent contractors. Interpreters in educational settings may work in public or private elementary or secondary schools, post-secondary schools or schools for the deaf. Interpreters who have business or administrative skills may be hired to co-ordinate interpreting services for agencies, schools (especially post-secondary schools), or conventions and other short-term assignments.

Sign language interpreters are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5125: Translators, terminologists and interpreters. In Alberta, 78% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Incomes and benefits vary considerably, depending on the interpreter's skill level, certification, education, experience and professional development. According to ASLIA, sign language interpreters earned from $30 to $55 an hour or about $34,000 to $63,000 a year (2015 estimate).

Interpreters may be paid by the hour, half day or full day. Typically, they charge a 2-hour or half-day minimum and require at least 48 hours' notice of cancellation. Interpreters will often charge the full amount of the original booking unless they receive a cancellation notice 2 business days in advance.

Sign language interpreters are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5125: Translators, terminologists and interpreters.

According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Translators, terminologists and interpreters occupational group earned on average from $34.71 to $39.64 an hour. The overall average was $35.24 an hour. For more information, see the Translators, terminologists and interpreters wage profile.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2016

Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Alberta (ASLIA) website:

Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada (AVLIC) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 29, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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