Although it is difficult to determine how many individuals in the United States are hearing impaired, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) indicates that around 17%, or 36 million, of the adults living in the US report some degree of hearing loss. Add in the number of children affected by hearing impairments and the percent of Americans experiencing some level of hearing loss increases significantly. Clearly, there is a need for interpreters for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, but, understandably, there are certain necessary steps one must take to obtain certification.

There are two levels at which you can become certified or licensed to be an interpreter for the deaf and hard-of-hearing: the state level and the national level. Typically, states will recognize national certification, but it is always helpful to verify the assessments and necessary qualifications required where you live. For example, Pennsylvania requires interpreters to pass the NIC or CDI written tests and the RID performance exam (in addition to satisfying other criteria), whereas interpreters in Texas must be certified by the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI).

For national certification, prospective interpreters can be certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). There are two types of RID certifications: generalist and specialist. Four generalist certifications are offered by RID:

  • NIC (National Interpreter Certification). Upon completing and passing the exams for this test, an individual becomes a nationally-certified interpreter for the deaf.
  • CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter). Individuals holding this certification are deaf or hard-of-hearing and typically have more experience or specialty in the use of mime, gesture, props, and other similar tools of non-verbal communication.
  • OTC (Oral Transliteration Certificate). Those who achieve this certification are able to transliterate a spoken message from a hearing person to a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual.
  • Ed: K-12 (Educational Certificate: K-12). Those who pass the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) are recognized as educational interpreters trained in classroom interpreting, both voice-to-sign and sign-to-voice.

The two specialist certifications offered by RID certify interpreters for legal settings. The CLIP-R (Conditional Legal Interpreting Permit-Relay) is offered to interpreters who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and already have a generalist certification (CDI or the now unavailable RSC). The SC:L (Specialist Certificate: Legal) are certified to interpret in a wide range of legal settings and must also have a generalist certification (NIC).

Once certification has been achieved, it must be maintained for an individual to be considered a certified interpreter with RID. The requirements for the Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) can be found here.

For more information on certification for interpreters for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, please visit the websites of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and RID. Are you considering achieving certification as an interpreter? Have you already been certified? Share you experiences in the comments!