How to Become A Sign Language Interpreter

There are different avenues on how to become a certified Sign Language interpreter. Some states have a licensure board that has a system in place to issue permits to non-certified interpreters.

Let’s start with RID’s Certifications.

Currently, RID holds two different certifications.

The National Interpreter Certification (NIC) is broken up into two parts, the NIC Written Exam and the NIC Performance Exam.

You don’t have to take both exams at the same time. You can take the Performance Exam within 5 years of passing the written portion. A bachelor’s degree is required to be certified. However, there is an Alternative Pathway option in the event that you do not hold the necessary degree to take the performance exam.  Holders of this certification and demonstrated general knowledge in the field of interpreting, ethical decision making, and interpreting skills.

Then, there is the Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) certification. There is also a written exam called CDI Knowledge Exam. In order to take this exam, the candidate must meet the 40 hour training requirement. One may also take the CDI performance exam within 5 years of passing the written portion. Candidates must have a minimum of an associate degree of any major or may also choose the Alternative Pathway option. Effective June 30, 2016, candidates must have a bachelors degree in order to take the performance exam. Holders of this certification are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and have demonstrated knowledge and understanding of interpreting, deafness, the Deaf community, and Deaf culture.

Read: 5 Good-To-Know Facts about RID

There are some states with a licensure board that permits non-certified interpreters to practice in the state.

In this particular post, I will explain the Alabama Licensure Board for Interpreters and Transliterators.

A license is issued by the state if you send in your RID certification.

permit is issued when you have passed a written exam approved by the board AND performance assessment – not the NIC performance assessment, otherwise you could apply for your license if you’ve taken and passed the NIC written exam. Usually, candidates take the Educational Performance Interpreting Assessment.

non-renewable permit is issued when you have 3 interpreters who are already licensed/certified that can vouch for you. This permit expires 12 months after the issuance date. So don’t get too busy with interpreting assignments. Make time to study for your written exam and performance test so that you can apply for the renewable permit or license.

All the above require more documentation such as the application, fees, proof of identity, etc.

Have questions? Send me a note at

References + Resources

RID’s Certification Overview

ALBIT’s Rules and Regulations

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