The Sign Language Interpretation program at Douglas College is moving to Vancouver Community College in Fall 2023. Current students will be able to continue their studies at Douglas College for another academic year to allow them to graduate without interruption to their studies. More information is available from the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills.
Applied Community Studies
Sign Language Interpretation
Length of Program
If you’re skilled in American Sign Language (ASL), the Diploma in Sign Language Interpretation will prepare you for a dynamic career in a rapidly expanding field.
You’ll learn how to facilitate communication between hearing and deaf and hard of hearing people in a variety of settings. Upon program completion you will be able to interpret meaning, communicate bilingually, act bi-culturally, act ethically, and use appropriate business skills.
Get practical experience during your studies
This sign language interpreter program emphasizes practical experience and community work, giving you many opportunities to practice what you are learning. You'll complete three, one-month practicum placements during your final semester, where you will be teamed with professional interpreters in their work settings.
Applicants must meet the admission requirements listed below:
Program Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this program and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the program, consider the previous version as the applicable version.
ASL-English interpreting can be a rewarding career. You are most likely to succeed in this program and as a professional interpreter if you have:
Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to communicate assertively
Ability to mentally process information very quickly
Fluency and versatility in ASL and English (spoken and written)
Empathy and respect for people of diverse identities and experiences
Awareness of your positionality, power and privilege
Flexibility and adaptability
Self-care strategies for maintaining physical, mental and emotional health
Determination, perseverance and ability to follow through
A practicum is a supervised worksite learning experience. Practicums offer rich opportunities to apply your classroom learning of skills and theory to real-world situations. In the final semester of the program you will go on practicum placements where you will work under the guidance and mentorship of professional interpreters in a variety of settings. For more information, see Worksite Learning.
Each year the program offers seats to 18 full-time applicants who meet the entrance criteria, based on their application submissions and a screening process. The applicants who best meet the admission criteria will be offered seats in the program. If more than 18 applicants qualify for admission, applicants over and above the top-rated 18 who meet the entrance requirements will be put on a temporary wait list. If an applicant does not accept a seat when offered, it will then be offered to the next person on the list. The wait-list does not transfer to the following year’s intake, so applicants not offered a seat will need to reapply.
Knowing ASL means you can communicate with others using ASL. As an interpreter, you will need additional skills (learned in this program) to understand how to deeply analyze and understand messages received in spoken English and in ASL, construct meaning, and produce equivalent interpretations of that meaning in the other language.
To prepare for the interpreting program, sufficient advanced proficiency in ASL may be acquired from formal classes and/or family experience and/or Deaf community involvement. If you have little to no experience with American Sign Language, you should start with preparatory ASL classes.
Douglas College now offers ASL for credit through the Modern Languages (MODL) department: MODL 1161, 1162, 1261, and 1262 = ASL Levels 1 to 4. MODL is rolling out more courses up to ASL Level 10. Prerequisite for the interpreting program is Level 7 or the equivalent.
Many students complete ASL Prep levels 1-4 at Vancouver Community College, and then enroll in the 10-month, full-time ASL and Deaf Studies program at VCC in order to prepare themselves for the Douglas College Sign Language Interpretation program.
For admission to the interpreting program, the requirements are ALL of the following:
College-level English – 3 credits.
Advanced proficiency in ASL – Level 7 or equivalent.
Foundational Deaf studies – previous coursework in Deaf culture, identity & community, allyship, social justice, power & privilege.
Eligibility for the interpreting program as determined by a screening process.
Suggested preparation for the interpreting program also includes the following coursework:
Acting or Oral Communications
Introduction to Deafhood (new INTR 1101)
Allyship & the Deaf Community (new INTR 1102)
Social Justice Perspectives on Deaf Education, History & Access (new INTR 1103)
This program provides high quality instruction, unique curriculum and varied learning activities. Key features of the program include Deaf community involvement and one full semester of practicum. You are required to complete volunteer hours, immersion activities in the Deaf community (for example, camps lasting several days) and supervised work placements.
Before you graduate, you'll demonstrate your skills and readiness to enter the interpreting field by compiling a capstone portfolio showcasing your achievements. During a capstone week at the end of the program, you will perform interpretations and a presentation, all of which will be assessed by members of the Deaf community, professional interpreters and program faculty.
Course topics in the program include interpreting theory and practice, advanced ASL, service learning, allyship and positionality, Deafhood, professional ethics and standards of practice, among others.
For detailed course descriptions, see the Curriculum tab (above).
In summary, the interpreting program consists of the following:
Fall semester with full course load plus service learning in the community.
Winter semester with full course load plus volunteer interpreting in the community.
Summer semester (May & June) includes two courses plus continued community involvement.
Fall semester with full course load plus volunteer interpreting in the community.
Winter/spring semester (Jan to May) including three 4-week practicum placements.
Capstone week – submission of portfolio and demonstrations of readiness to graduate.
To move through the sequence of courses most efficiently and successfully, it is strongly recommended that you take the program on a full-time basis. If you wish to pursue part-time studies, contact the program coordinator. Admission priority is given to full-time students.
The volunteering, immersion activities and community interpreting requirements of this program are very time-demanding. If you must work while enrolled in the program, your job must be flexible to accommodate classroom and community requirements.
Graduates from the Program of Sign Language Interpretation may wish to continue their education and/or pursue a degree. Block transfer of credits may be possible to various institutions in BC and Alberta.
The age of students in the program usually ranges between 19 and 40 with the average age being 26.
The program has an excellent, long-standing relationship with the Deaf community and the organizations that serve them in BC. Community members’ support and involvement ranges from Deaf individuals serving on the Program Advisory Committee, to acting as language models for students in class, to doing live presentations which students interpret for practice.
As a mutual benefit to the Deaf community and to students’ practical learning, the program offers student volunteer interpreters in some community settings in which no paid professional interpreters would be provided (family gatherings, recreational events, etc). The students receive valuable feedback from Deaf community members that enriches their development of interpreting skills.
Our program is proud of our dedicated team of highly qualified and experienced instructors, Deaf and hearing; most have dual careers in both teaching and professional interpreting. We have a Deaf ASL specialist on staff who provides valuable ASL tutoring and facilitates ASL learning labs.
The excellent rapport between WAVLI and the program is a key feature. The WAVLI Board has a student liaison position giving students access to follow the ongoing activities of the association. Many WAVLI members offer to act as a "twin" to a first-year student, providing informal mentoring and answering student questions. This relationship allows the student to gain knowledge from the professional about the field of interpreting, develop connections with future colleagues, and gain insight into standards of practice. Professional interpreters also often visit classes as guest speakers, panelists and models for the students. At the end of the first year of the program, students become Student Members of WAVLI and can attend the association’s meetings, events and workshops. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are automatically eligible to become Active Members of WAVLI, thereby earning the right to use the protected occupational title of Registered Sign Language Interpreter (or Registered ASL-English Interpreter).
Job prospects for graduates of this program are excellent. A survey of graduates shows that most graduates are working more than 20 hours/week in the field within four months following graduation. Many interpreters work as independent freelance contractors in the community. There are permanent positions, for example, in some school districts, organizations, and in video relay services.
Sign language interpreters work in various settings: education (K-12 and post-secondary), social services, performing arts, video relay, medical, legal, community settings, and workplaces where Deaf people are employed.
It is important to be realistic; a career may take years to develop. The unmet need for interpreters is large and actual market demand is growing. However, with entry-level skills, you may not gain full-time interpreting work immediately after graduation.
Interpreters working in salaried staff positions typically earn a starting wage of approximately $26 per hour. Freelance interpreters charge professional fees ranging from about $40 per hour for a new graduate to $75 per hour for experienced practitioners with higher level skills and qualifications.
When offered a full-time seat in this program a non-refundable, non-transferable $350 tuition deposit is required.
Career opportunities include:
ASL-English Interpreter, also known as Sign Language Interpreter, in various areas:
Health care, mental health care settings
Legal settings, courtroom, police
Employment services, job interviews
Workplace settings where Deaf people are employed
Business meetings, presentations
Family events, reunions, celebrations
Video relay services
Travel and tourism services
Potential related careers, with additional specialized education: