Scholarships for Interpreters Serving the Deaf

Become a Skilled Interpreter, Get Paid Well

Sign language interpreters must be fluent in both a primary language and sign language in order to facilitate communication between the hearing and the deaf. In America, the sign language most commonly used is called American Sign Language (ASL, formerly known as Ameslan), and other countries have their own indigenous sign languages.

Interpreting can be either simultaneous, meaning the interpreter translates speech as it is being produced, or consecutive, meaning the interpreter waits for a moment before rendering an entire passage at once into another language. Interpreters must work rapidly and accurately, and in addition to fluency in standard speech they must be conversant with local dialects of sign language, slang terms, and idioms.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that handicapped persons, including the deaf, must be given equal access to government services and employment. The deaf must be provided with aids to effective communication, and hiring someone who can interpret sign language fulfills that requirement. Hence, the job outlook for new sign language interpreters is quite bright.

Scholarships From Professional Organizationsdeaf interpreter scholarships

The Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (MNRID) offers incentives to students interested in learning how to interpret for the deaf. MNRID’s website lists three applicable scholarships:

  • The Pioneers Scholarship is a $500 award given to help a student in the last year of an interpreting program pay for his education. The award is made each year, and applicants must belong to MNRID.
  • The Mary Burnes Mentorship Scholarship goes to an MNRID member who has graduated from an interpreting program and wants to obtain a mentor. Two awards in the amount of $100 each are handed out each year to defray the cost of a mentor for the purpose of either interpreting or language.
  • The Certification Scholarship for $100, given every year, goes to a student MNRID member who is close to graduating from an interpreting program and wants to take a test in order to be certified as a sign language interpreter. Eligible certification choices include the National Interpreter Certification (NIC), Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), Specialist Certificate: Legal Certification (SC:L), Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), and Oral Transliteration Certificate (OTC).

The Colorado Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf also sponsors a scholarship program for members. You must be a member of ColoradoRID and RID or of ColoradoRID and a student chapter thereof to apply, and the funding you receive can be used to pay for certification testing for either the NIC or the EIPA.

Your application will be considered based on the attention you devoted to completing your submission, your participation in ColoradoRID activities, and your plans for using the scholarship money.

The Florida Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf provides three scholarships for members who want to take their certification tests:

  • The Shirley T. Herald RID Scholarship pays for NIC testing
  • The Pat Seger QA Scholarship covers the costs for the Florida Quality Assurance Screening (QA) examination
  • The Richard Dirst EIE Scholarship will provide money for an Educational Interpreter Evaluation (EIE).

The national organization called simply Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf maintains a page of information about its own scholarships and awards, which require membership. Here are some examples:

  • The Evelyn Zola Scholarship gives at least $500 in educational funding to a student pursuing a CDI certification.
  • The Gerald “Bummy’ Burstein Award helps financially needy students interested in training or certification testing to meet those expenses. The Burstein gives at least $500 each to both a deaf student and a hearing student.
  • The Elizabeth Benson Scholarship for at least $500 goes to a member enrolled in an Interpreter Training Program (ITP) or Interpreter Preparation Program (IPP).
  • The Daniel H. Pokorny Memorial Fund, like the Burstein Award, assists those students who can prove financial need with the cost of their certification tests.

Private Enterprise Funding

Deaf Interpreter Services, Inc. (San Antonio) builds its presence in the community with philanthropic contributions, including scholarships for students entering the sign language classes conducted by DIS.

Scholarships From Colleges

Harper College, which has established a Sign Language Interpreting Certificate program, makes the Jacob and Iris Wolf Sign Language Interpreting Scholarship available to enrollees. You may contact the Sign Language Interpreting office for more information or apply online.

In 2006, the state of Utah reached agreements with three institutions (Salt Lake Community College, the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, and Utah Valley State College) to provide training in ASL. Utah will underwrite a student’s training if the student agrees to work for the state for a period of time equal to that of the educational aid received. You may contact the state for details on how to obtain that financial aid.


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