Sign language interpreting is a fascinating, challenging and rapidly expanding field that offers an endless variety of opportunities and rich linguistic and cultural experiences. With more than 1,100 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and 17,000 hearing students on campus, and more than 100 Deaf and hard-of-hearing faculty and staff members, RIT provides you with a unique environment and excellent opportunities to increase your knowledge of cultures and enhance your English, American Sign Language, and interpreting skills.

Guided by a strong commitment to the language and culture of Deaf people, the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreting Education at NTID provides a rigorous program of study to a diverse group of learners. The department of ASLIE offers two programs: the ASL/English Interpretation Program and the American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Program.

The department of ASLIE:

  • Explores and celebrates American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture;
  • Promotes respect for Deaf people’s right to full communication access;
  • Cultivates a commitment to life-long learning;
  • Fosters respect for diversity among people;
  • Provides practical education for application in the professional world of work

About Interpreting

Sign language interpreting is a fascinating, challenging, and rapidly expanding field that offers an endless variety of opportunities and rich linguistic and cultural experiences.

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, there is a good chance that interpreting is the career for you. If you answer “no” to any of these questions, we encourage you to contact an NTID admissions counselor to discuss this career option further.

  1. Do I enjoy and am I good at all aspects of English: reading comprehension, writing, and knowledge of vocabulary?
  2. Do I have an interest in Deaf culture and American Sign Language?
  3. Can I express my thoughts easily and clearly in speech and writing?
  4. Can I stand up in front of people and communicate my ideas without experiencing severe anxiety?
  5. Can I concentrate and pay careful attention for an extended period of time and easily understand the details of what is communicated to me?
  6. Can I correctly remember and re-state information that I have heard or read?
  7. Do I have good vision (with or without glasses) and have good depth perception?
  8. Can I stand comfortably for 30 to 45 minutes?
  9. Am I able to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds?
  10. Can I hear well enough to fully understand a person speaking even if s/he is behind me and/or at a distance?
  11. Can I easily hear recorded speech using headphones at normal volume?
  12. Is my speech clear and easily understood?
  13. Do I have good hand and arm muscle coordination?
  14. Do I naturally use facial expression when communicating with people?
  15. Would I describe myself as a people person?
  16. Can I cope with stressful situations?
  17. If I am faced with a problem, can I come up with several different ways to resolve it?
  18. In difficult situations do I remain composed and keep my emotions in check?
  19. Do I have an interest in different cultures and people who are not like me?

If you would like to learn more about the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to become a sign language interpreter, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is Interpreting?

  • Sign language interpreters bridge the communication gap between people who don't share a common language. They are highly skilled professionals who must be able to ascertain the meaning of a speaker’s message in one language and communicate that intended meaning to an audience that doesn’t share the same language and culture as the speaker.
  • They can work in a wide variety of settings: business, educational, medical, legal, government or social service agencies, religious, video relay or performing arts.
  • Interpreters are highly skilled in facilitating communication between languages.
  • For more information, see the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf's articles on Professional Sign Language Interpreting.

What is American Sign Language?

  • ASL is the visual language used by many deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States and many parts of Canada.
  • ASL is very different from English—it is a complete language with its own grammatical structure.
  • For more information, see the National Association of the Deaf's definition of ASL

Why Interpreting?

  • The demand for interpreters is greater than the supply, so there are many employment opportunities.
  • Interpreting is rewarding: you will work with people and develop relationships.
  • Interpreting is flexible: you can be employed on staff at an agency or choose to work for yourself and set your own hours.
  • Interpreting is interesting: you can work in a wide array of settings.
  • Interpreting is challenging: you will be able to continue growing as a lifelong learner.

How does the ASL-English Interpretation program prepare me for a career in interpreting?

  • It enables you to gain a firm foundation in American Sign Language.
  • It helps you develop cognitive and ethical decision-making skills.
  • It provides you basic socio-cultural knowledge needed to serve as a cross-cultural mediator.
  • It provides you with more than 200 hours of field experience working with professional interpreters.
  • It enables you to meet the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s requirement that candidates for certification must possess a bachelor’s degree.
  • It provides you with a solid foundation on which to develop the skills needed to pass professional certification exams.

Degrees and Programs

Seamlessly facilitate communication and interaction between deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people in educational, medical, and community settings.

Learn More about ASL-English Interpretation BS 

The Deaf cultural studies-American Sign Language certificate offers deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students the opportunity to understand the deaf community as an entity unto itself and within the context of society as a whole.

Learn More about Deaf Cultural Studies-American Sign Language Certificate 

The MS degree in health care interpretation is designed to meet the demand for nationally-certified sign language interpreters who wish to work in health care environments.

Learn More about Health Care Interpretation MS 

RIT/NTID announces the non-credit "Certificate in Healthcare Interpreting" (CHI) program for 2020-2021. The program is a blended format consisting of a consolidated, week-long face-to-face classroom experience and online learning components. CHI provides specialized professional development to ASL/English interpreters in the area of healthcare interpreting, and employs innovative teaching by nationally recognized healthcare experts combined with practical application within healthcare environments.

The online application deadline is March 15, 2020. Applicants will receive an email by March 31, 2020 with a decision on their application status.

Learn More  

ASL Online

Beginning American Sign Language I and II at RIT
  • Have you ever met a deaf person and wished you could communicate with them?
  • Have you watched a sign language interpreter and thought that you’d like to learn that beautiful language?
  • Would you like to learn ASL online?
What is ASL?

ASL is a visual language used by thousands of people in the United States and parts of Canada. It’s the third-most studied language in colleges and universities across the country.

Benefits of Learning ASL
  • You’ll learn to communicate with friends, clients and customers who use ASL.
  • You’ll expand your horizons, learning the rich culture of the American Deaf community.
  • You’ll enhance your cognitive skills, including visual-perceptual skills and spatial reasoning skills.
  • If you’re a kinesthetic or visual learner, you will really enjoy learning ASL!
  • ASL could satisfy a foreign language credit.
  • Learning ASL could lead to a new career opportunity, such as working in a setting that serves deaf clients, in education, or interpreting.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the world, and is one of the nine colleges at RIT. Faculty in NTID’s American Sign Language & Interpreting Education Department teach the ASL courses. All of our American Sign Language classes are taught by Deaf faculty members who are certified by the American Sign Language Teachers Association, and all of our interpreting instructors are certified as sign language interpreters by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and are active in the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.

NTID has been offering sign language classes and programs for more than 40 years and delivering online courses since 2014. Credit obtained from taking this course may be transferrable to other colleges.

Who is eligible?

Online ASL classes are open to degree-seeking students and non-degree seeking students.

How to enroll

If you are interested in taking Beginning ASL I or II this summer, visit here for more information.

Additional Resources

You will find information in this section regarding new student orientation, admitted students' technological requirements, finding an appropriate RIT ASL course, student volunteer interpreting, and other ASLIE related topics.

Additional Resources page  

Frequently Asked Questions

Ability to invest time in ASL skill development: 

To become an ASL-English interpreter, one must develop competency in both English and ASL. The more adept students become in both languages’ grammar, linguistic features, discourse structure, and prosody, the more comfortable and skilled they will be at interpreting. As with learning any new language, ASL proficiency cannot be attained by attending classes alone; it requires practicing and using ASL with native ASL signers. Just as those who study spoken languages frequently study abroad to immerse themselves in a new language and culture, ASL students must immerse themselves in the culture and language of Deaf people if they wish to become fluent.

To succeed in this program and graduate with a greater level of confidence, students need to commit to spending significant amounts of time outside of class to record videos, meet with Deaf people for feedback, and immerse themselves in ASL and Deaf culture by attending community events. Naturally, this makes Interpreting a very time-intensive program. Students who have limited availability outside of class time often find their progress is not as robust or advanced as those who are able to expend time in those additional extra-curricular activities. The more hours that students spend outside of class interacting with Deaf people, the faster they progress in their ASL skill development and the greater their readiness for the exciting but challenging field of interpreting.

Students interested in pursuing ASL-English interpreting as a career should take into consideration this additional aspect of time commitment before applying to the program.

Other skills needed to be successful in this program:

  • A solid foundation in spoken and written English
  • Basic computer skills
  • Ability to clearly hear the speech of another person (even if the person is behind you or the speech is recorded, and you are listening through headphones)
  • Ability to speak clearly, so others can understand
  • Ability to concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task over a period of time
  • An interest in different cultures
  • An interest in working with people

Your ASL video sample submitted as part of the application process will be used to determine your ASL course placement in the program course sequence.

For transfer applicants, evaluation of applicable college credit will occur as part of the admission process. A transfer credit summary will accompany the acceptance letter. However, course work in ASL and interpreting will not be transferred in until an assessment is completed. Due to the sequential nature of the course work, it is possible that a student could transfer in two years of credits but need an additional three or four years to complete the required course work.

A bachelor’s degree in interpreting teaches the skills, ethics and professional behaviors required to become a professional interpreter. Professional certification is an examination that tests the skills, ethics and professional behaviors of a working interpreter. The National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf is the professional organization for sign language interpreters that offers the certification exam. You can visit their website at

An academic degree is different than professional certification. When you graduate, you will have a Bachelor of Science degree in ASL-English Interpretation. Certification is a credential that interpreters obtain from professional organizations. Generally, professional certification is obtained after students have completed their education and have 1-2 years of work experience. There are two organizations that certify sign language interpreters: the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and Boys Town National Research Hospital.

Sign Language interpreter certification typically includes a written test, which must be passed first, followed by a performance test. In a recent survey of graduates from the NTID ASL-English Interpretation program, more than 60% of the graduates took and passed the written test within a year after graduation. Most will go on to obtain professional certification.

The American Sign Language-English Interpretation program follows a sequential course plan, including ASL II-VII and core interpreting courses. Because this course sequence begins in the fall semester, you are not permitted to begin the program during the spring or summer semesters.

If you’re interested in applying to the American Sign Language-English Interpretation (ASLIE) program, there are two application deadlines for you to consider:

  • Early Decision: If you submit all application materials by November 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-January. (Early decision is available to freshman applicants only)
  • Regular Decision: If you submit all application materials by January 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-March. (Regular decision is available for freshman and transfer students)

Note: The Regular Decision deadline is January 15. Incomplete applications after January 15 may not be reviewed for admission.

To enter the program you need to demonstrate beginning-level competency in ASL. For most students this will mean the completion of a course titled ASL I or Beginning ASL. We will assess your ASL ability to verify you satisfy the entry requirement.

You will submit an ASL sample as part of the application process. You will then be placed in the appropriate course for your ASL ability. Any previous ASL coursework will then be transferred to NTID. Most previously taken ASL courses will be transferred to the major or as general education electives.

It is important to note that the ASL courses and the interpreting courses are sequential. Regardless of how many transfer credits you bring in, if you start the program at Foundations of ASL, ASL II or ASL III, it will be a four-year program; if you start the program at ASLE IV or V, it will be a three-year program.

As a student in the ASLIE program, you will receive a substantially reduced tuition rate. Because RIT/NTID receives support from the federal government, students in the ASLIE program pay less than one-half of RIT’s regular tuition. At RIT/NTID, you receive a world-class private university education at a public university price.

I've been accepted into the program. What can I do to get ready before I arrive on campus?

Some accepted students ask us what they can do to begin learning about Deaf people and Deaf culture before they begin the program. Here are a few resources you may be able to find in your local library, online, or at a movie rental store:

Some accepted students ask us what they can do to begin learning about Deaf people and Deaf culture before they begin the program. Here are a few resources you may be able to find in your local library, online, or at a movie rental store:



  • Bragg, Bernard. Lessons in Laughter:  The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 1989.
  • Fletcher, Lorraine. Ben’s Story:  A Deaf Child’s Right to Sign. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 1988.
  • Greenberg, Joanne. In This Sign. New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
  • LaCross, Blair, and Michelle LaCrosse. Silent Ears, Silent Heart:  A Deaf Man’s Journey Through Two Worlds. Roseville, MI:  Deaf Understanding, 2003.
  • Lang, Harry. Moments of Truth:  Robert R. Davila, The Story of a Deaf Leader. Rochester, NY:  RIT Press, 2007.
  • Lang, Harry. Teaching From the Heart and Soul:  The Robert F. Panara Story. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 2007.
  • Madan, Vasishta. Deaf in Delhi:  a Memoir. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 2006.
  • Matlin, Marlee. I’ll Scream Later. New York:  Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009.
  • Padden, C., and T. Humphries. Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture. Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1988.
  • Spradley, Thomas and James Spradley. Deaf Like Me. Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Press, 1985.


  • Movie synopses on the Terp Topcis website designed for interpreters
  • Sound and Fury
  • Sound and Fury Six Years Later
  • Through Deaf Eyes
  • Mr. Holland's Opus: 1996, Rated PG. Stephen Hereck, director. Hollywood Pictures
    The story line involves an aspiring composer whose dreams are thwarted by life getting in the way. For financial reasons he must take a job teaching music appreciation and band at a high school, putting his career as a musician on hold. When his son is found to be profoundly deaf, he retreats into his work, isolates himself from his wife and child, and refuses to engage with the silent world to which he feels his son has been consigned. The oral method of communication is attempted, and then the frustrated mother turns to a school for the deaf and sign language to unlock her son's mind. Mr. Holland must learn to reconcile what he wishes were so with what reality has presented him.
  • Hear No Evil: 1993, Rated R. Robert Greenwald, 20th Century Fox
    The main character is Jillian, a personal trainer and athlete, who inadvertently becomes involved in a heist that has her under investigation. She becomes a woman hunted by the police and by the actual thief, who believes she is in possession of what he wants. She is befriended by an investigator who is introduced to sign, TTYs, and what the world of a deaf person might be like in terms of awareness–or lack of awareness–of sounds.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral: 1994, Rated R. Mike Newell, director. Polygram Filmed Ent.
    The deaf character in this movie is the brother of the hearing protagonist. He functions as a normal member within his brother's circle of friends, and along the way he meets and falls in love with a young woman who learns sign because she admired him from afar. The climax of the story occurs when he intervenes in his brother's life in a most surprising way, and there is a fun twist on the idea of a hearing person having to “voice” for a deaf person who is really signing what the hearing person wants to say and can't.
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter: 1968, Rated R. Robert Ellis Miller, director. Warner Brothers
    The main character of the whole novel, and film, is a deaf man who is ironically named “Singer.” Everyone he meets feels that because he can read lips they can come to him with all of their problems and anguish and share their innermost feelings with him. He has one signing friend in a hospital far away, and his inner life is never explored or connected with in any way. He is a metaphor for the loneliness within us all, and even though many in the deaf world objected to a hearing actor playing this role, the film does show a slice of 40's and 50's American South and what an intelligent, sensitive deaf man's life might have been like.
  • The Family Stone: 2005, Rated PG-13. Mike Bezucha, director. 20th Century Fox
    The deaf man in this film is also gay, with a partner who is of a different race, and plans to adopt a baby in the near future. His family is full of strong characters, and he has always been treated equally and with as much access as they could muster (bad signing by all, but at least it is attempted). He is presented as a contrast to the upscale, uptight fiancĂ©e of his brother, who points out how hard it must be for him to be hit with the double whammy of deafness plus being gay. It becomes apparent very early in the story that she is the one who is the misfit in this situation, and his “afflictions” have not kept him from being “normal.”
  • Johnny Belinda: 1948, not rated. Jean Nagalesco, director. Warner Brothers
    This is an old movie that is interesting to watch. It shows what life might have been like for a deaf girl who was isolated in a small island community in Nova Scotia, and how her family and others communicated with her in a rudimentary way. When a new doctor takes up residence, bringing his "modern" attitudes and philosophies, he takes notice of Belinda. Suspecting she is intelligent, he teaches her sign language, thus unlocking her mind and ability to communicate. Tension escalates as a local bad boy lusts after her, and a crime occurs which drives the rest of the plot and allows the audience access into Belinda's heart and mind. So many people have this film as their only reference to deafness that it's important to be aware of it as a cultural touchstone.
  • Children Of A Lesser God: 1985, Rated R. Randa Haines, director. Paramount Pictures
    THE deaf movie - and usually the only one folks of a certain age know about. It shows the oral/manual controversy in all of its glory. A rebellious deaf girl goes head to head with the speech teacher at a school for the deaf, and as they fall in love they exchange banter and arguments about the merits of speech only or sign only as communications choices for the deaf. Shows schools for the deaf in the 80's and the political polarization that is exemplified by other characters who represent the signing or oral point of view.
  • Ridicule: 1996, Rated R. Patrice Leconte, director. Miramax Films
    A minor deaf character in the film is discovered and entered into Abbé de L'Epée's school for the deaf in France. A wonderful scene occurs when the Abbé conducts one of his exhibitions to show French nobles how well deaf people can function with sign and how intelligent they are once they are given the gift of sign language. Historically accurate, as he did travel all over France to garner funds for his school by means of these show-and-tell events to impress the well-heeled. This occurred just prior to the French Revolution.

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