Health Care Interpretation Master of science degree

804b9e3c-acb7-44bd-8d22-53a92c4e4ba1 | 129347


Online Option

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.

Health care interpreters work in various health care settings where hearing people and deaf or hard-of-hearing people need to interact and communicate. Interpreters may assist deaf patients and their families in understanding medical testing, treatments, and diagnoses; facilitate communication for deaf health care professionals with colleagues and patients; and/or provide interpretation for deaf individuals who are enrolled in health care-related degree programs or training courses designed to educate and prepare them for careers in health care-related professions. This unique program also prepares interpreters to work in administrative roles ensuring language access to patients in hospital settings. Successful completion of this program could lead to employment as a sign language health care interpreter and/or a language access coordinator of sign and spoken language interpreting services in one of the most important new fields of health care.

The program may be completed on a full- or part-time basis.


  • Health Care

  • Non-Profit

  • Other Education

Typical Job Titles

Manager of Interpreter Services Sign Language Interpreter


Health care interpretation, MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Professional Seminar (summer)
This course is the first course taken in the MS in Health Care Interpreting degree program. This week long on-campus residency professional seminar will build a foundation of the practical skills and knowledge undergirding the master’s degree program. It is intended to provide the learner with an overview of the course management system, webinar software, and sign language health care skills development used throughout the program. This course addresses the theoretical constructs and the approach to the practice of interpreting based on the demand-control schema and reflective practice and the federal regulations and policies impacting communication access and the work of interpreters. The latest research regarding health care disparities in the deaf population will be presented and health care interpreting skill development activities will commence.
Human Body Systems/Diseases I (summer)
This first course in a two-course sequence will help interpreters build a strong foundation in human body systems and diseases. Within each body system topics for discussion include: anatomy and physiology (structure and function), common conditions/diseases, common medications and treatments, specialized terms, health care provider specialties, medical tests, and procedures and equipment. This class is conducted in ASL.
Theories of Translation and Interpretation (summer)
This course will begin with an examination of the scope of practice of spoken language interpreters in health care settings and this will then be compared to the models of profes-sional deportment in sign language interpreting. From there, we will review the major paradigms in the field of translation and interpretation, that of formal or functional (dynamic) equivalence, and how the scope of practice expectations impact the interpreta-tion process. Finally, students will explore the concept of “sense” or meaning and how to convey that in a medical setting.
Health Care Practical Interpreting I
This interpreting course exposes interpreters to interpreting in mental health, cardiology, OBGYN, and orthopedic outpatient and inpatient settings. This course will expose inter-preters to medical professionals, common medical service protocols, typical diagnostic and treatment dialogues or clinical "scripts" of common conditions, diagnoses, and initial presenting complaints. Exposure to this new content knowledge happens via observations of medical student practice dialogues with simulated patients and other problem-based learning activities. In addition to this new knowledge and the unique observation opportunity, participants will be further reinforcing and integrating the Human Body Systems course content in their analyses of medical interpreted cases. English to ASL/ASL to English skill development activities will be employed.
Human Body Systems/Diseases II
This second course in a two-course sequence in Human Body Systems/Diseases will continue to help interpreters build a strong foundation in human body systems and diseases by addressing the remaining body systems not covered in the first course. Within each body system, topics for discussion include: anatomy and physiology (structure and function), common conditions/diseases, common medications and treatments, specialized terms, health care provider specialties, medical tests, and procedures and equipment.
Research Methods
This is an introductory graduate-level survey course on research design/ methods and analysis. The course provides a broad overview of the process and practices of social research in service-related contexts. Content includes principles and techniques of research design, sampling, data collection, and analysis including the nature of evidence, types of research, defining research questions, sampling techniques, data collection, data analysis, issues concerning human subjects and research ethics, and challenges associated with conducting research in real-world contexts. The analysis component of the course provides an understanding of statistical methodology used to collect and interpret data found in research as well as how to read and interpret data collection instruments.
Health Care Practical Interpreting II
This course is a continuation of HICA 720 Health Care Practical Interpreting I. The course content will address interpreting for surgery, end of life care, pediatrics, and cancer inpatient and outpatient settings. It will also advance students’ ability to facilitate group supervision based on DC-S constructs. Using reflective practice techniques already employed and demonstrated in the program’s courses, students will be expected to emulate similar techniques with their colleagues. Case presentation and case analysis of actual interpreting assignments will form the basis for the course material and activities. Students will be expected to identify and articulate the unique contextual factors of the case (the demands of the job), the decisions made by the interpreting in the case, and discuss all ethical attributes of these demand-control pairings. Students will also be expected to use DC-S constructs to restructure the dialogue that emerges from case analysis discussions. Students will be further reinforcing and integrating the Human Body Systems course content in their analyses of medical interpreted cases. English to ASL/ASL to English skill development activities will be employed.
Health Law, Economics, and Policy
This course provides an examination of the roles and responsibilities of policy makers on the health care system. Students will compare and contrast the regulatory functions of varying levels of government, the political process and economic impacts as they relate to health care systems. Students will then examine control issues and regulatory dynamics, the legislative process, economic functions and regulatory trends in the United States as well as an assessment of health systems’ strategies and responses to the regulatory oversight. The course also provides an overview of legislation as it applies to health facilities and administrative law using case studies.
Human Resources in Health Care
This course focuses on the changing competitive health care environment that has made human capital an organization’s key asset, with HR largely responsible for cultivating it. Specifically, students will learn the impact that human capital has on the HR division and function of health care organizations. The focus will be on how the “New HR” has become more strategic and fundamental to a health care organization’s success and the need to meet the demands of highly skilled, educated and credentialed health care professionals.
Second Year
Health Care Interpreting Within a Diverse Deaf Community (summer)
This course is for health care interpreting students to learn how to work with the diverse Deaf community. The course begins with a discussion of current perspectives in Deaf Studies including the Deaf Gain paradigm and Social Justice Theory relevant to medical interpreting. Current research on deaf individuals’ health knowledge, health literacy, and health outcomes are presented. Class discussions will focus on working with deaf individuals fluent in foreign sign languages, minority Deaf populations, deaf individuals with special needs, deaf-blind individuals, deaf interpreters, deaf students, and deaf professionals. Students will develop skills interpreting for some of these deaf individuals.
Capstone Professional Project or Research Paper (summer)
The purpose of this course is to provide students the opportunity to conduct research, develop a plan and evaluation components, or submit a project as a demonstration of final proficiency in the program. The faculty teaching the class will guide the topic selected by the student and it will require the student to coalesce and incorporate into the final project or paper a culmination of their entire course work in the program to date (e.g., if a student is employed in a health care setting a project related to enhancing the provision of Language Access Services could be conducted).
Total Semester Credit Hours

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in health care interpretation, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application,
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae,
  • Hold current national ASL/English certification or state licensure. Applicants must email a copy of their credentials to
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above (or superior endorsement) from an accredited college or university.
  • Submit two letters of reference from individuals who are qualified to observe your interpreting work.
  • Submit a personal statement describing your educational objectives. (This may include reasons for applying to the program, how the program will relate to long-range career objectives, any personal or non-academic qualities that contribute to the program, any prior experience, or why you want to attend RIT.)
  • Submit an ASL interpretation sample.
  • Deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants must submit an audiogram.
  • Complete a graduate application.

Applicants accepted into the program are required to complete a self-paced online course in medical terminology called Language of Medicine prior to the beginning of the summer term, which starts each June.

Learn about admissions and financial aid