Become a professional interpreter at WNC

Rachael Seabert, right, and other students work in an American Sign Language class on Sept. 19, 2017, at Western Nevada College in Carson City.
Deaf Studies Program offers two-year degree that can lead to employment or further training

Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College

Kim Johnson took her first American Sign Language classes at Western Nevada College 15 years ago. Today, she is a contractor for Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, specializing in sign language interpreting.

That launch into Deaf Studies at WNC set Johnson on the educational pathway to becoming a highly trained and national certified professional interpreter.

Whether they are interpreting from American Sign Language to English or vice versa, interpreters unlock a world of opportunities and services that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the deaf.


They provide a service that only a few can perform. Thus, they are coveted by a number of employers.

“Here in Northern Nevada, and across the country, the biggest need in interpreting services is qualified interpreters,” Johnson said. “Interpreters encounter all kinds of people in all kinds of places. The communication needs of all those different kinds of people and places vary widely and the interpreter must be able to meet those needs. This requires highly trained professionals who are exceedingly competent in American Sign Language and English, and whatever other language they are interpreting.”

Interpreters are becoming more necessary as federal laws are requiring that additional services be made available to the deaf. While many interpreters become employed in educational settings, they are also needed in social services, government, religion, medical, legal and business fields, just to name a few.

There has been a shortage of teachers in many school districts across Nevada in recent years. That shortage also includes interpreters, especially in rural areas, according to Will Jensen, an education programs director with the Nevada Department of Education’s Office of Special Education.

“The Nevada Department of Education, Office of Special Education, has worked cooperatively with the Aging and Disability Services Division for many years,” Jensen said. “The NDE remains committed to this relationship and will continue to facilitate collaborative opportunities between school district administrators and the Aging and Disability Services Division.”

The skills and knowledge to initiate a professional career in interpreting can be acquired at Western Nevada College. Individuals can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Deaf Studies by completing 60 credits.

Johnson has provided her skills to a variety of businesses:

doctor’s offices, hospitals, government, workplaces, conferences, classrooms.

“Anywhere there are people, there may be the need for interpreters,” she said.

The two-year degree that WNC provides students, in many cases, will help grads become interpreters in schools, health care facilities and with public agencies. Grads can continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree, and, more importantly, obtain certification by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or National Council on Interpreting.

“While not all interpreting settings require national certification, an interpreter who is nationally certified will meet the requirements for most employment opportunities nationwide,” Johnson said. “For interpreters to take the national certification exam they must have a four-year degree from an accredited institution in any field of study.”

Registration for spring semester is happening now. Get started at

For more information, contact the Career and Technical Education office at 775-445-4272.

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