Education

Best American Sign Language Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top American Sign Language programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

American Sign Language is the primary language of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States and Canada. American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language that is used to communicate through signing. American Sign Language is a complete language, with its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

American Sign Language degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers working with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, including interpreters, teachers, and counselors. Students in American Sign Language degree programs learn about the history and structure of the language, and how to use it to communicate effectively.

How to Choose the Right American Sign Language Program

When choosing an American Sign Language (ASL) degree program, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, consider the cost of the program. Some schools offer scholarships and financial aid, so be sure to research those options. Second, think about the location of the school. Some programs are online, while others are in-person. If you plan to study ASL online, make sure the program is accredited. Third, consider the time commitment. ASL degree programs can vary in length, from two years to four years. Finally, research the curriculum. Some programs offer more specialized coursework than others. Choose a program that offers the courses you’re interested in.

Best Bachelor’s in American Sign Language Programs

The best programs for American Sign Language ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY

The University of Rochester offers a Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language (ASL) that focuses on modern language, literature, and culture. The program approaches the study of signed languages from a linguistic and scientific perspective, and provides students with practical preparation for a variety of professions.

The city of Rochester has a large Deaf population, which provides students in the program with unique opportunities to learn and use ASL outside the classroom. Students in the more advanced ASL courses have the opportunity to attend community events, theatrical performances, and lectures, and also have the opportunity to study abroad.

Rank 2
Maryville College
Maryville, TN

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language-English Interpreting degree from Maryville College is designed for students interested in becoming professional interpreters. The curriculum is student-centered and focuses on skill development, with opportunities for students to gain real-world experience through community partnerships. The program also prepares students for advanced study in related fields.

Rank 3
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN

The Bachelor of Science in American Sign Language-English Interpretation degree from Indiana University is designed to prepare students for a career as an interpreter. The program provides a strong foundation in language, culture, interpreting, and linguistics. Students develop their abilities in ASL and English, analyze features of ASL and English, discuss ethical issues, and perform guided practice with both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.

Rank 4
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

The Bachelor of Arts in Asl Interpreting & Deaf Studies, Bachelor of Arts in ASL Interpreting & Deaf Studies degree from University of South Florida is designed to prepare students for careers in American Sign Language interpretation and Deaf Studies. The program is very flexible, allowing students to take courses online or in person. The program also offers the opportunity for students to participate in undergraduate research.

Rank 5
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language & Deaf Studies from University of Kansas is a unique, interdisciplinary program that offers comprehensive coursework to prepare students with the skills to complement in-demand jobs and the foundations for ASL fluency or interpreting.

The B.A. and B.G.S. in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies offer four tracks/certificates: Deaf Studies and Social Justice, Advanced ASL, Becoming an Interpreter, and Professional Interpreting.

Rank 6
Columbia College Chicago
Chicago, IL

The Bachelor of Arts in ASL-English Interpretation from Columbia College Chicago is a nationally accredited program that prepares students for a career in interpreting. All ASL-English Interpretation students work with faculty members to customize a degree plan. As students develop and perfect their language skills, they take courses in Deaf culture and learn about career opportunities within Deaf communities. Students also take elective courses in their areas of interest. Some topics elective courses cover include theatre, art, literature, and history.

Rank 7
Framingham State University
Framingham, MA

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language from Framingham State University provides students with a foundation in American Sign Language (ASL) and associated courses that cover the history, culture, and literature of the Deaf Community in the U.S. within a social justice framework. Students choose to concentrate in American Sign Language/English Interpreting or in Deaf Studies. Students with prior knowledge of, or instruction in, ASL must be assessed to determine their level of entry into the ASL course sequence.

Rank 8
University of Houston
Houston, TX

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language Interpreting program at the University of Houston is designed to prepare students to effectively interpret between American Sign Language and English. The program is four years long and includes coursework in both ASL and English, as well as cultural competency. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be qualified to take the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters certification exam.

Rank 9
IUPUI
Indianapolis, IN

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language & English Interpreting from IUPUI is a great choice for students looking to enter the field of interpreting. The program provides a strong foundation in language, culture, and diversity, which will prepare students to work with a wide range of populations. Additionally, the program offers the opportunity to minor in ASL, which will give students even more skills and knowledge to work with deaf individuals and communities.

Rank 10
Kent State University at Kent
Burton, OH

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language from Kent State University at Kent is a great choice for students interested in ASL as a culture- and community-based language. The program uses immersion and bilingual-bicultural comparison classes, community interaction, research, lab activities, and digital video technology to help students gain documented proficiency in ASL, validity within the deaf community, and networking within the professional community.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in American Sign Language Program

Students in a bachelor’s in American Sign Language (ASL) program can expect to learn about the history, culture, and linguistics of the deaf community. They will also develop their ASL skills and learn how to interpret and translate ASL into English.

Most bachelor’s in ASL programs require between 120 and 124 credits and take four years to complete. In addition to ASL coursework, students will also take classes in English, math, science, and the humanities. Some programs may also require an internship.

To be successful in a bachelor’s in ASL program, students need to have strong communication skills and be able to work well in a team. They should also be patient and have a good understanding of ASL grammar and syntax.

Common American Sign Language Courses

A bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language (ASL) typically consists of 120 credit hours. The coursework is a mix of general education requirements, ASL classes, and deaf culture classes.

Introduction to Linguistics

This course covers the study of language with an emphasis on American Sign Language (ASL). Topics include an overview of ASL linguistics; ASL phonology, morphology, syntax, and discourse; and an introduction to Deaf culture. Upon completion, students should be able to apply ASL linguistic principles to produce and comprehend ASL utterances, and demonstrate an understanding of Deaf culture.

Introduction to Deaf Studies

This course covers an introduction to deaf studies with an emphasis on deaf history, deaf culture, and the deaf experience in America. Topics include an overview of deaf history from a social, political, and cultural perspective; the development of deaf communities and deaf culture; and the impact of deafness on individuals, families, and society. Upon completion, students should be able to explain the development of deaf communities and deaf culture in America, and describe the impact of deafness on individuals, families, and society.

ASL Grammar and Linguistics

This course covers ASL grammar and linguistics, including an overview of ASL phonology, morphology, syntax, and discourse. Emphasis is placed on how ASL differs from English, ASL sentence structure, and ASL classifiers. Upon completion, students should be able to apply ASL grammar rules to produce and interpret ASL sentences, and demonstrate an understanding of how ASL differs from English in terms of grammar and syntax.

ASL Literature and Arts

This course covers the study and appreciation of ASL literature and arts. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of ASL literature, storytelling, and poetry, as well as theatrical productions, films, and other artistic performances in the Deaf community. Upon completion, students should be able to analyze ASL literature and artistic performances from a variety of perspectives, and appreciate the value of ASL literature and arts in the Deaf community.

ASL Conversation and Culture

This course introduces students to deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL) used by deaf people in the United States. Students learn about deaf history, the deaf community, and various aspects of deaf culture. They also learn basic conversational ASL skills such as signing one’s name, fingerspelling, and common phrases. The course also covers deaf etiquette and the importance of respecting deaf people and their culture. Upon completion, students should be able to sign their name, fingerspell the alphabet, and carry on a basic conversation in ASL.

Career Options for American Sign Language Graduates

Graduates of American Sign Language programs work in a variety of fields and industries, including education, interpretation, and social services. They may also work in fields such as healthcare, government, and business.

American Sign Language Interpreter

American Sign Language interpreters facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear. In some cases, they interpret for deaf people who use ASL to communicate with hearing people who don’t know ASL. In other cases, they interpret for hearing people who use ASL to communicate with deaf people who don’t know ASL. And in still other cases, they interpret for deaf people who use ASL to communicate with other deaf people who don’t know ASL. ASL interpreters typically work in settings such as classrooms, hospitals, courtrooms, and conferences.

Sign Language Translator

Sign language translators convert spoken language into sign language and vice versa. They interpret for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals in settings such as doctor’s appointments, school meetings, business conferences, and court proceedings. Translators also work with deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals who use sign language to communicate with hearing people who don’t know sign language. In this case, the translator acts as an intermediary, relaying messages back and forth between the two parties.

Deaf Services Coordinator

Deaf services coordinators work with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to ensure they have access to the services and resources they need. This can include interpreting services, captioning services, and other accommodations. Deaf services coordinators typically work in social service agencies, educational institutions, or healthcare facilities. They may also work for companies or organizations that serve a deaf or hard-of-hearing clientele.

Transcriptionist

Transcriptionists listen to audio recordings and type out what they hear. The recordings could be of anything from business meetings and phone calls to lectures and doctor’s appointments. Once the transcriptionist has finished typing out the recording, they will proofread it for errors and make any necessary corrections. Transcriptionists typically work in an office setting, but some may be able to work remotely.

Deaf Education Teacher

Deaf education teachers work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. They may teach a range of subjects, including English, math, science, and social studies. In addition to teaching academics, deaf education teachers also teach students how to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) or other sign systems, and they may also provide support to students’ families. Deaf education teachers typically work in public schools, but they may also work in private schools, resource centers, or hospitals.

Insights From an American Sign Language Graduate

Carly Wilkinson is an American Sign Language Interpreter at RIT. She has a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language from Rochester Institute of Technology. Carly has over 7 years of experience as an interpreter.

ClimbtheLadder: What were the biggest takeaway(s) you got from your American Sign Language program that you may not have gotten otherwise?

Carly Wilkinson: The biggest takeaway from my American Sign Language program is that I gained a much deeper understanding of the Deaf community. I had the opportunity to learn about Deaf culture and history, which has helped me to be a better interpreter. I also gained a better understanding of the language itself and how it is used.

ClimbtheLadder: What should students interested in American Sign Language be good at?

Carly Wilkinson: Students interested in American Sign Language should be good at visual learning, as ASL is a visual language. They should also be good at multitasking, as they will need to be able to listen to a speaker and interpret at the same time. They should also be patient, as it can take some time to become proficient in ASL.

ClimbtheLadder: What misconception(s) do people have about an American Sign Language degree, and what would you tell them?

Carly Wilkinson: I think the biggest misconception is that an American Sign Language degree is easy. I would definitely not say that my degree was easy. It was a lot of hard work and dedication. I had to put in a lot of extra time outside of class to make sure that I was successful.

I would also say that another misconception is that an American Sign Language degree is not worth it. I think that my degree has been extremely valuable. It has allowed me to get my foot in the door in the interpreting field and has given me the skills that I need to be successful.

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