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British Sign Language Interpreter

The role

British Sign Language, or BSL, interpreters act as a bridge of communication between deaf and hearing people. They pay close attention to what is said or signed, before interpreting and communicating what has been said or signed to the other party in English or BSL.

They might be required to prepare for an assignment, including looking up particular vocabulary and information relating to a subject.

A British Sign Language Interpreter must remain impartial and only provide advice or an opinion if it aids the communication process.

How to become a British Sign Language Interpreter

To qualify and register as a BSL Interpreter, a candidate needs to have achieved qualifications accepted by the Registration Department of Signature. Qualification can be achieved either by studying a degree or postgraduate qualification at university, or through taking the Signature Level 6 NVQ Diploma in Sign Language Interpreting.

In order to be able to take these courses, entry requirements may vary, although a qualification for BSL up to level 2 is often required, with courses provided at colleges or centres for the deaf.

Experience within the deaf community is a real benefit, and more information can be gathered on how to achieve this through the British Deaf Association, who can put candidates in touch with local deaf groups.

There are three categories under which an Interpreter can be registered following qualification, depending on the course that has been taken: Junior Trainee Interpreter (JTI), Trainee Interpreter (TI) and Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters (MRSLI). An MRSLI is the full professional status, while a JTI or TI can be restricted in the work they are able to take on.

The National Register of Communications Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People has details of which courses result in which level of registration.


Skills and knowledge required

  • Brilliant communication skills and confidence in speaking publicly
  • Excellent BSL skills
  • An understanding and in-depth knowledge of the deaf community
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Discretion and integrity
  • The ability to think on your feet and to concentrate for long periods of time



Salaries are variable, based on experience, the employer and the location of the job. Full-time interpreters may earn £20,000 to £35,000 a year, while freelance fees can be around £20 to £30 an hour.

The hours

Hours are often irregular, and can include evenings and weekends. Due to the varying nature of the job and the different situations in which a BSL Interpreter may be required, from education institutes to government hospitals and law courts, travel may be required.

Useful websites - Royal Association for Deaf People - Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) - Signature - The National Register of Communications Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People - British Deaf Association - RNID


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