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Department of Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies


Explore the Interpreting Option

Sign Language Interpreting is a career that connects one community to another. In order to accomplish this, interpreters must relay the messages being presented to the highest degree of accuracy possible. This includes relaying tones of voice, feelings and attitudes. The only way that this is possible is to be fluent in both languages and be able to move between languages with ease. Students interested in sign language and interpreting skills pursue the "Interpreting" option that culminates in a Bachelor's Degree.

Mission Statement

The mission of the interpreting program is to train entry-level ASL-English interpreters with a strong foundation in interpreting practices and ethics within a liberal arts environment. We encourage academic growth, promote cultural awareness, and stimulate intellectual development. In keeping with the Mission of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies, we promote an understanding of culture and diversity that exists within the deaf community, and offer opportunities for research and scholarship related to interpreting theory, processing, and ethics. Consistent with the mission of Fresno State, we seek to spur interest in lifelong learning, prepare students for professional study, and promote linguistic and cultural diversity. We are committed to the needs of the community by providing American Sign Language and Deaf cultural awareness classes that promote a better understanding between members of both the deaf and hearing communities. 

The interpreting program is a vital part of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies. We advocate a sociolinguistic view of the Deaf and hearing communities and believe that American Sign Language (ASL) and English are both natural languages that can promote full linguistic, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional development of individuals. The program promotes respect and value of Deaf culture and ASL and views these as vital elements of the deaf community. We also recognize and value the cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity that exists in both the deaf and hearing communities, and promote tolerance and appreciation of these differences in our classrooms, personal interactions, and daily conduct. The program values feedback from deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing stakeholders, and recognizes the rights of all people to use a language and modality of their choice. We believe that it is critical for students to acquire a strong foundation of knowledge and competencies to become entry-level sign language interpreters. Moreover, we believe it our responsibility to educate and encourage students to acquire knowledge and critical thinking skills that lead to strong values of mind that contribute to the benefit of our state and nation.

Background of Interpreting Degree

The creation of the Interpreting option is directly related to a study done in 1992 that showed that 13,000 interpreters working in the field did not have Bachelor's or even Associate of Arts degrees (Stewart, Schein & Cartwright, 1998, p. 151). At that time, it was the opinion of Lavasque (1992, p. 2) that a "…professional implies someone with a degree, at least a Bachelor's degree. A professional brings more than just training in his field. He brings a general education as well as the maturity of a college graduate." While recognizing the contributions of all interpreters, it is the goal of the interpreting option to graduate interpreters who meet not only the demands of the major but who meet the comprehensive general education requirements of the University as well.

Careers in the field 

This undergraduate background can lead to graduate study or employment in fields such as interpreting, social work, rehabilitation counseling, and other human service fields.

In order to qualify for the Bachelor's degree in our Interpreting option, successful completion of the courses in the major will be required.


The first step towards becoming a Sign Language Interpreter is to become fluent in a Sign Language, most commonly used in the United States, American Sign Language. Since the profession serves a variety of communication needs, interpreters must be versatile, objective, and reliable. To be a certified Sign Language Interpreter, on must be awarded the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) that is a test overseen by two organizations, the Registry of interpreters for the deaf (RID) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

Certified interpreters are in very high demand and the pay varies greatly because of that high demand. Interpreters can work for an organization or work freelance.

The interpreting option gives students an in-depth knowledge of two languages and cultures. The curriculum has been designed to provide the subject knowledge and terminology of the interpreting assignment which may include medical, legal and commercial terminology. The program is designed according to the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) standards. The interpreting option prepares students to be able to fulfill National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf (RID) certification NIC standards and requirements. The Department also serves as a resource center and source for continuing educational opportunities for interpreters and graduates in the community.

View the Fresno State Catalog for more information.