Best Deaf Studies Degree Programs of 2022

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

Deaf studies is the study of deaf people and their culture. Deaf studies programs can prepare students for a variety of careers working with deaf people, including interpreters, educators, and counselors.

Deaf studies programs offer a broad overview of deaf culture, covering topics such as deaf history, deaf literature, and deaf art. Students in deaf studies programs learn about the different aspects of deaf culture, and how to communicate with deaf people.

How to Choose the Right Deaf Studies Program

When choosing a deaf studies program, there are many factors to consider. The most important factor is whether the program is accredited by the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED). CED-accredited programs meet high standards for curriculum and teaching. Other factors to consider include the program’s focus, cost, and location.

Deaf studies programs can be found at both two- and four-year colleges and universities. Some programs are offered online, but not all online programs are accredited. Students should also consider the program’s focus. Some programs focus on deaf culture, while others focus on American Sign Language (ASL) or interpreting. Students should choose a program that matches their interests.

Cost is another important factor to consider. In addition to tuition, students need to budget for books, supplies, and living expenses. Some programs offer scholarships and financial aid. Location is also a factor to consider. Some programs are located in cities with large deaf communities, which can provide networking and internship opportunities.

Best Bachelor’s in Deaf Studies Programs

The best programs for Deaf Studies 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
Boston University
Boston, MA

The Bachelor of Science in Deaf Studies from Boston University provides students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the culture, contributions, and contemporary issues related to Deaf people in the United States. The program is designed to prepare students to work with Deaf people in a variety of settings and to advocate for the Deaf community. The program requires coursework in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, as well as field experiences working with Deaf people.

Rank 2
Barton College
Wilson, NC

The Bachelor of Science in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing from Barton College is a unique program that prepares students to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing children in a variety of educational settings. The program emphasizes a comprehensive philosophy of deaf education, and students take courses in American Sign Language, educational and psychological foundations of deafness, methods of teaching school subjects to the deaf, language development and linguistics, and communication skills to the deaf.

Rank 3
University of Montevallo
Montevallo, AL

The Bachelor of Science in Education of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing from University of Montevallo is a program that prepares students to become teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. The program was established in 1974 and is accredited by both the State Department of Education and NCATE.

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 and Deaf Studies from University of Kansas is designed for those who have either completed an associate degree with a focus on ASL or ASL/English interpreting or those who have completed ASL I-IV (typically four semesters of coursework). The program is also able to offer Deaf students advanced academic training in their heritage language.

Rank 6
Madonna University
Livonia, MI

The ASL Education program at Madonna University is designed to prepare students for a career in teaching ASL. The program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to become a professional sign language interpreter. Through extensive training and practice, students will develop the interpreting skills needed to work in a variety of settings. The program also offers an optional minor in ASL Education, which provides students with additional skills and knowledge related to teaching ASL.

Rank 7
Columbia College Chicago
Chicago, IL

The Deaf Studies bachelor’s degree program at Columbia College Chicago combines instruction in American Sign Language with exposure to performance and visual art in Columbia’s creative environment. Students will graduate with connections in the Deaf community in Chicago and beyond, prepared to serve as a Deaf Studies specialist and advocate for the community.

Rank 8
Minot State University
Minot, ND

The Bachelor of Applied Science in Interpreting and Sign Language Studies from Minot State University is designed to prepare entry-level professionals for careers in sign language interpreting in both community and educational settings. The program provides students with a foundation in American Sign Language (ASL) and core knowledge and skills in interpreting, along with special education and disability services coursework.

Rank 9
California State University-Northridge
Northridge, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Studies from California State University-Northridge emphasizes the study of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf culture, and provides students with the opportunity to develop a concentration in an area of interest such as linguistics, education, or social work. The degree also requires students to complete a General Education curriculum, which includes courses in Ethnic Studies, to prepare them for work in a diverse world.

Rank 10
California State University-Sacramento
Sacramento, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language & Deaf Studies from California State University-Sacramento is an interdisciplinary program that takes a comprehensive approach to the study of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in American and world society. The program promotes the understanding of deaf people as a linguistic and cultural group, and encourages students to analyze existing stereotypes and policies relating to deaf and hard-of-hearing people in order to work within their own communities and others to effect change.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Deaf Studies Program

Students in a bachelor’s in deaf studies program can expect to learn about the deaf community, deaf culture, and American Sign Language (ASL). The degree program typically includes coursework in linguistics, psychology, and sociology.

Most deaf studies programs offer a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS). The BA degree program usually emphasizes liberal arts coursework, while the BS degree program focuses on the scientific study of deafness.

In addition to coursework, students in a deaf studies program often have the opportunity to participate in internships and fieldwork experiences. These experiences can provide students with the opportunity to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in a variety of settings.

Students in a deaf studies program should expect to develop strong communication, interpersonal, and research skills. They should also be prepared to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Common Deaf Studies Courses

Classes for a deaf studies degree program can differ depending on the school, but may typically include the following courses.

American Deaf History

This course covers the history of deaf people in America from the 1600s to the present day. Emphasis is placed on the major events, individuals, issues, and organizations that have shaped the deaf experience. Upon completion, students should be able to trace the major historical events that have impacted the deaf community and explain the current situation of deaf people in America.

Introduction to Linguistics

This course covers the scientific study of language including its structure, use, and acquisition. Topics include the nature of language, language in society, language development, language variation, and language change. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the major concepts, terms, and theories of linguistics to the analysis of language.

Deaf Culture

This course covers the history, traditions, and values of Deaf people in the United States. Emphasis is placed on the study of the Deaf community, including its language, literature, arts, and ways of life. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of Deaf culture and its place in society.

ASL-English Interpretation

This course covers the theory and practice of interpretation between American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Emphasis is placed on developing interpreting skills using a variety of strategies, including consecutive and simultaneous interpretation, as well as sight translation. Upon completion, students should be able to interpret ASL to English, and English to ASL, using a variety of strategies and techniques.

Psychology of Deafness

This course covers the psychological development of deaf individuals from infancy through adulthood. Emphasis is placed on the impact of deafness on cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development. Upon completion, students should be able to apply psychological theories and research to explain the development of deaf individuals.

Career Options for Deaf Studies Graduates

Graduates of Deaf Studies programs work in a variety of fields and industries, including education, social work, counseling, and interpreting. They may also work in fields such as deaf advocacy, deaf culture, and deaf history.

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 addition to being fluent in ASL, interpreters must also have a strong understanding of English grammar, since they need to be able to interpret ASL into English and vice versa. interpreters work in a variety of settings, including educational institutions, medical facilities, courtrooms, and business meetings. They may also provide interpreting services for events such as concerts or conferences.

Deaf Education Teacher

Deaf education teachers work with students who are deaf or hard of hearing, teaching them academic subjects, social skills, and other necessary life skills. They may work in public schools, private schools, or other educational settings. Deaf education teachers often use a variety of methods to communicate with their students, including sign language, lip reading, oral communication, and written communication.

Deaf Counselor

Deaf counselors work with clients who are deaf or hard of hearing. In this role, you would provide support and guidance to help clients manage the challenges they face due to their hearing loss. You would also work to promote communication and understanding between clients and their families, friends, and co-workers. In addition to counseling, deaf counselors may also provide advocacy services, interpreters, and other resources to help their clients navigate the world.

Social Worker

Social workers are trained professionals who help people cope with the challenges of everyday life. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and private practices. Social workers may provide individual, family, or group counseling; connect clients with resources like food or housing; advocate for clients; or provide crisis intervention.

Hearing Aid Specialist

Hearing aid specialists are responsible for helping people with hearing loss by assessing their needs and recommending, fitting, and servicing hearing aids. They work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. In addition to working with patients, hearing aid specialists often work with audiologists, ENTs (ear, nose, and throat doctors), and other medical professionals. They may also be responsible for training patients on how to use their hearing aids and providing ongoing support and maintenance.

Insights From a Deaf Studies Graduate

Mohamed Lester is a Community Engagement Specialist at the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes. He has a bachelor’s degree in deaf studies from Gallaudet University. Mohamed has over 7 years of experience working with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

ClimbtheLadder: What would you recommend that students do in addition to their degree program, in order to stand out to employers?

Mohamed Lester: I would recommend that students get involved in leadership roles on campus or in the community. For example, you could be a resident assistant, a member of a student organization, or a volunteer. These activities will help you develop leadership skills and learn how to work with a team.

In addition, I would recommend that students learn American Sign Language (ASL). Employers will be impressed that you have made the effort to learn the language of the deaf community.

ClimbtheLadder: What type of person is successful and thrives in a Deaf Studies career?

Mohamed Lester: I would say that a successful person in a deaf studies career is someone who is passionate about deaf culture and the deaf community. They should also be someone who is patient, as it can sometimes be challenging to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They should also be able to be flexible, as they may have to use different modes of communication depending on the situation.

ClimbtheLadder: Was there anything about your Deaf Studies program that you didn’t expect or anticipate?

Mohamed Lester: I expected to learn about the deaf community and culture, but I didn’t expect to learn about so many different perspectives. I thought that there would be one way to be deaf, but I quickly learned that there are many ways to be deaf. I also didn’t expect to learn about the history of the deaf community and how it has changed over time.


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