There are more M.A. programs on ASL Interpreting today than ever before. You can go to school in Florida, Washington D.C., Minnesota, Oregon and more. Here’s the thing though, you shouldn’t do it.

This is not a list about any one particular program. And, ultimately, you should trust your gut and your heart— not some internet blogger. But, these are my carefully thought through opinions that I’ve been chewing on over the years.

I am a strong proponent of continuing education. I truly believe in graduate school as a viable and worthy task in and of itself. If you are attending school for the simple love of learning—then take whatever program at whatever university makes you happy. If you are attending graduate school as an economic investment into your future, it falls apart.

Caveat: If your career goals are to teach ASL interpreting or produce academic research on ASL interpreting, then maybe it’s for you, I’d still recommend against it.

What’s the problem? There are so few jobs that need or accept this degree; it just does not make sense. Yes, you will make slightly more money doing freelance work with an MA in interpreting. Yes, you will learn specific pedagogy principles relating to interpreting. However, that’s also true if you get an MA in linguistics or other communication theory programs (that’s what I did), and there are far more job openings for people with slightly less specific academic programs.
I think this is also true for Ph.D. programs, look in the cross-cultural studies field, communication theory, or linguistics. There is no interpreting job you would be disqualified for with these degrees, but many more that you would qualify for. The math simply does not work.

So, what options make sense? I really like Gonzaga University’s M.A. program in Communication and Leadership, it was highly beneficial for me to study organizational leadership (which is a skill and set of knowledge that is nearly universally beneficial) and address organizational communication, ethics of communication and more. I attended this program, I am an alum. But, I receive nothing in return for my public support of the program.
I would point out that the graduate program at St. Cates University is a unique program that tries to have it both ways, focusing on interpreting and broader issues with their Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies and Communication Equity (MAISCE), and it’s fairly new, so I don’t have any official position on it.

Also... per one of my go-to quotes “you never interpret about interpreting,” so having a diverse educational track is very important. I wrote about this and some recommended books along this same train of thought

Edited on 8:41 CDT, June 14, 2018

Emory David Dively

Emory is an NIC: Master ASL interpreter, has operated small and large agencies, and consulted with agencies across the US. He has an MA in Communication & Leadership from Gonzaga University.