ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►


Random people often invest a total of about twenty seconds typing something to the effect of:

"I'm interested in a career in ASL and would appreciate your advice. Thanks!"

To do a minimally decent job of responding to that takes hours.  To do a thorough job of responding to that takes a book or a website.

Pre-advice questionnaire:

What are your goals?
What do you want to do with your life?

Five years from now what do you want to be doing?
How old are you?

Do you have any degrees or certifications yet?
Are you dependent on financial aid? (Will you need financial aid in order to attend college?)
What state do you currently have residency? (Where have you lived in the past year that you can prove you lived there via state issued ID or a utility bill with your name on it?)
Do you own a car and are you able to drive?
What is your current level of signing ability?
Are you Deaf and/or have some sort of documented disability?  (If so you may qualify you for state-sponsored vocational rehabilitation.)
What is your GPA?
Are you interested in or at least willing to do an online college program?

Do you want an in-person program?  Why or why not?
What specific majors have you been leaning toward and why?
Does your cultural or ethnic background cause you to want an environment that is more accepting of diversity?
Are you aware of the sentiment (attitudes, opinions, feelings) in the American Deaf Community that result in many Deaf actively seeking to discourage Hearing people from taking Deaf jobs (jobs that can be easily and enjoyably done by Deaf people)?
Do you want to become an interpreter?
What do you "not" like to do?
Do you like working with kids? What ages?

Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
Do you have family or other responsibilities that might impact your freedom or choices in terms of relocation and/or hours worked?
Why do you even want to go to college anyway? Why don't you go get a job in sales, live on way less than you earn, invest the rest in a low-cost diversified index fund and retire in 10 years?





Before even considering which college to attend or in which subject to major I recommend you invest a few hours doing job searches to see what positions are actually available and what qualifications you will need in order to apply for such jobs.   In other words -- start with the end.  There is no sense studying a topic and completing a program if in the end there are no jobs in the location you want to live and/or if the pay is too low to support the kind of lifestyle to which you would like to get accustomed.

If you choose to attend an out of state college or education program you will pay out of state tuition which can be outrageously higher than in-state tuition. So if possible you will want to consider in-state options first.

Some people prefer to attend in-person college programs because they need the structure to force them to study -- or they want the social interaction.


If you are not "disabled" that means many of the low-cost programs or avenues that are available to Deaf are not available to you.

For example, Deaf people who live in Texas can attend college for free.  I got my doctorate from Lamar University in Beaumont. Wonderful people there.

If you are an autodidact you probably wouldn't mind doing an online study program.  You might also want to consider eventually becoming a college instructor and getting paid to study. That can happen when you are a full-time college instructor. You are expected to do research as part of the promotion and tenure process -- thus colleges have all sorts of support and incentive programs including grants for research. 

In California it is possible to teach full-time at a community college with an associates degree and 6-years of "in the field experience." Interestingly, it is easier to get hired and teach college than to it is to get hired and teach at a high school.

I do "not" recommend attending four-years at a big-name out of state university -- unless you are financially well-off and do not need to go into debt to do it.  Instead I recommend completing your general education and an associates degree at the nearest convenient low-cost community college. Then transfer whichever college that has the specific major you want for your bachelors degree.  Make sure you can complete it in your junior and senior year though.  Some not-well-thought-out BA major degrees take more than two years to complete and are thus not good programs to transfer to from a community college.

If you live with your parents and the "big university" is within biking distance then sure, it might be worth paying a bit more in tuition.

Check to make sure that the program you attend results in a degree or certification that actually qualifies you for a career in which you can earn a living wage.  Be wary of (and avoid) ASL and Deaf Studies programs that do not lead to certification and that qualify you to do nothing more challenging than being a teacherís assistant.   If you choose such a program you will need to go on to graduate school and get a higher degree.  How do you find out what a program qualifies you to do?  You read their literature and you ask a program advisor very specific questions: 

Will your program qualify me to interpret upon graduation or will there be more I need to do? 

Will your program qualify me to teach Deaf children upon graduation or is there more I'll need to do?  If I do great in your program will you personally write me a letter of recommendation?

Will I be able to teach ASL after completing your program and if I do a great job in your program will you personally write me a letter of recommendation? 

(That "letter of recommendation" question gets to the heart of an important matter:  Many Deaf college instructors teaching in ASL programs are happy to take your tuition money and earn a living teaching ASL to Hearing students but the Deaf instructors do not want their Hearing students to earn a living teaching ASL.)  It is a one-way street.  All Deaf Studies and ASL programs listed in college catalogs and/or online brochures should include a disclaimer or caveat clearly stating whether or not their instructors actually support graduates of their programs working in the Deaf Studies field.

I recommend that you be realistic about your career choices.  If you are Hearing, chances are you will face community blowback (criticism / attacks) if you seek an ASL teaching position in any city with a large Deaf population.  Why?  ASL teaching positions are coveted by Deaf who are able to teach ASL.  When a Hearing teacher takes a job for which there are "any" Deaf applicants -- it will be resented by the Deaf applicant who will likely call upon their social network to cancel that Hearing person's career.  Is that fair? Is it smart from a long-term societal cost/benefit analysis?  Such questions are immaterial when you are getting attacked.  If you plan on teaching in a remote location with zero Deaf applicants for the teaching position you might very well have a fine and rewarding career.  Ask yourself if you are willing to move to and live in a remote area?

Self-motivated adults with life experience and the ability to get things done without someone holding their hand may wish to consider Western Governors University (if they haven't already). 
Western Governors University (WGU) is a good, low-cost option for adults with jobs or commitments .  WGU charges by the semester not for each credit so it is possible to load up and crank out the credits and graduate much faster than at other colleges. They also are receptive to life experience credit.

If you haven't already, check into the CLEP program (it is nation wide -- not limited to a specific college) College Level Examination Program. You can get hundreds of credits (!) just by testing out. I went to a testing center and in about 3 hours walked out with around 21 units. The son of a friend of mine tested out of two semester's worth of classes. In other words, he reduced his four year degree into 3 years.

Consider attending two or three community colleges at the same time for one or two semesters. It is low cost credit -- bang out an associates degree that covers your general education. Then transfer to a 4 year university to do the major work. That way you pay a lot less for your overall BA degree because half of it was general education at a community college.

If you take classes from two or three junior colleges (in the same city or via a combination of online and in-person) you can earn 30 or more units in one semester. If you find yourself with gobs of units but no degree consider the idea of a "bachelor of integrated studies" -- various colleges offer those for their students who can't make up their minds or changed horses mid-race.

While attending Lamar University in Beaumont Texas for my doctorate I checked to see how many units they would allow transferred in. They accepted six (which was the equivalent of one-full graduate-level semester (or half a year of graduate school).  So I simultaneously registered at Gallaudet University and took an online Deaf Culture class and another class for a total of six units. I was able to complete an accredited MA in one year and an accredited doctorate in two years (or three years total -- normally it takes five years total). 

Check to see if your school or program offers mini-semesters during winter break and/or summer classes.  Taking mini-semester classes and/or during the summer can considerably reduce the number of years it takes you to get a degree. 

If you are still in high school -- if you are able -- do advance placement or dual enrollment courses. Consider early-enrollment in college and take classes at night and/or on the weekends.

If you want to teach college it will benefit you to climb the paper ladder as quick as you can. Get your BA degree (for example at a school such as WGU mostly online) then apply for community college adjunct instructor and/or other instructor positions in a city what has a Masters / PhD program in your field at a university that you might like to attend. Then move there, teach for pocket money at the junior college while attending graduate school.

For full-time college teaching positions you will likely need to go through a multi-stage application and interview process. 

However for a part-time adjunct instructor college teaching position it is the wooing of college deans that gets you a job. Keeping the job relies on a combination of getting good student evaluations and completing the retention requirements.

Getting and keeping a job is a different skill-set from not being attacked by the Deaf Community. The latter is a matter of humility, connections, and being like an octopus. Wonderful creatures -- they know when to get small and hide, when to jet away, when to spray ink, how to pry on a mollusk for hours, and how to be flexible. The ocean is a dangerous place -- octopi have adapted and do quite well in the dangerous environment in which they find themselves.

For example, Linguistics is an incredibly octopus-like degree in the Deaf Community. It can get you hired as an ASL or Interpreting teacher rather easily -- especially if you have terp certification. However you either need to be fascinated -- frickiní fascinated with language or you need to be anal retentive (pick one) in order to be happy as a linguist. Sociology is another flexible degree.

Flexibility in your degree choice is important -- particularly if you are Hearing.  Why? If needed you could go work in a Hearing organization. If you get a degree in Deaf Studies and/or Deaf Ed -- that would actually limit your options in life since non-disability-oriented Hearing organizations would balk at the idea of hiring someone with a Deaf Ed degree -- but they would be much more accepting of Sociology, Anthropology, or Linguistics.  (With Linguistics you could even teach English!).  With Sociology (you could teach half a dozen things or work in a variety of positions).

Having a PhD (piled higher and deeper) in a "related field" allows you to teach nearby fields. My degree is in Deaf Education.  I donít teach Deaf Ed.  I teach Hearing adult ASL as a second language learners. The Deaf Ed degree was close enough to get me in the door.

So donít get hung up on a specific degree. Get into a program, get it paid for, do whatís necessary to get the degree -- use that to get hired or set up your own business.

Other secret -- no one says you canít ALSO take Underwater Basket-weaving during the same semester as you take your major degree course requirements.

Donít take the minimum number of courses per semester -- take the maximum -- that way you can take the requirements and turn around and also take useful stuff like "app" programming. Itís like getting a large pizza for a medium price. 

You might think:  But what about my GPA?  If I take a lot of classes I'll end up getting "C's!"

In 30 or so years not once has anyone meaningfully asked me what I majored in for any degree other than whatever was the most recent degree I had at the time.  Nor has a hiring official ever asked me what my GPA was. (It was 3.9 or something like that but it just didnít matter in the real world of getting hired to teach at a university). They were more interested in my websites, YouTube channels, etc. They wanted someone who could help them touch the future.

So make sure whatever your last degree is in -- is somewhat related to the field you want to be in. The other degrees can be in whatever the heck will enable you to pursue that last degree. It doesnít have to be an exact match -- just close enough.

Another interesting field in the Deaf world is "law" -- since so many organizations break the law when it comes to Deaf people. A law degree can be had for free. Take the LSAT (after studying using some of the LSAT prep courses which you can borrow texts for free from the library), combine that with a strong undergraduate grade point average (UGPA). So if you want to do law school for free -- then ace your bachelor degree grades. Warning: Disability law doesnít pay crap. The secretary will earn more than you if you go into disability law. There is just no money in it unless you become a winning / big name / big case -- ADA type attorney. The pro bono stuff supported by Deaf Centers and/or Disability Law Centers just doesnít pay enough on which to live well.

Get the minimum degrees and then cast a wide net to community colleges and start teaching evenings and weekends while you get the advanced degrees -- that way you have money coming in while you work on your career. You may need to move to find a "real" job (one that provides medical and retirement benefits). Donít stay adjunct forever. It works for a while if you donít have kids to raise and donít mind Taco Bell repeatedly -- but seriously find a "real" job teaching at a school that has a defined benefit plan into which you can vest. In other words -- score a pension.

Then quit.

I "retired" at age 55 with small pension and medical benefits. I don't have a lot of excess money -- but I donít have to go to work for someone else (indentured servitude) as long as I keep my expenses low. For the record though I'm not 'retired" -- I actually work more and harder these days -- just on projects that benefit more people via the magic of the internet





*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy
DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ô 
ASL resources by  ©  Dr. William Vicars