Careers Working with the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing

careers-deaf-hard-of-hearingAccording to the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), one in five Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear and three out of every 1000 children are born deaf or hard of hearing.

Looking at these staggering statistics, it’s obvious why people with the skills to work with the deaf community are increasingly in demand.

From sign language interpreters and teachers to speech pathologists and audiologists, the range of occupations working with deaf and hard of hearing people is wide, and jobs in this field are readily available.

Careers in the field vary in terms of age ranges, settings, and educational scope. Volunteering in hospitals, researching jobs and college programs, and learning sign language are all helpful in choosing a career path.

Narrowing down a specific direction within a particular occupation also helps in the process of selecting a career working with deaf people. For example, candidates interested in a counseling job may decide to focus only on working with deaf clients. Others may choose to work with the hard of hearing as a sign language instructor, but specializing in teaching preschool children.

Other occupations include:

  • Sign Language Interpreter
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Psychologist
  • Employment Counselor
  • Social Worker
  • Child Care Worker
  • Audiologist

teaching-deaf-and-hard-of-hearing-childrenSome settings which employ people who work with the deaf and the hard of hearing include:

  • Mental health clinics
  • Social service agencies
  • Hearing and speech agencies
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Government institutions
  • Public and private schools

After establishing a career path, finding the right education is the next step in the process. Degrees needed to work with the deaf and hard of hearing can range from an Associate in Early Childhood education degree and a Bachelor in American Sign Language degree to a Doctorate in Audiology and a Doctor of Psychology degree.

In order to graduate, these programs often require students to take core classes in areas such as linguistics, anatomy, child development, cognitive psychology, and research methods, as well as to complete a special practicum and student teaching assignments and to pass exams.

Some master’s and doctoral degree programs may require internships/clinics, published research papers, exams, and/or a cumulative dissertation to complete the program.

If any of the occupations mentioned above sound interesting, the detailed educational requirements, programs and potential job prospects listed below will help in planning a career working with deaf people and hard of hearing people.

Most states require special licenses and certificates. Each state has its own degree and licensing requirements, so check current state mandates regularly.

Following is a list of nine broad job categories, with the details of what to expect from a career in each field, and how to prepare yourself for it. The job titles are  listed alphabetically.

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audiologistAudiologist

An audiologist, a trained professional, works to diagnose, prevent, and treat balance and hearing loss problems using state of the art equipment and procedures.

In clinical settings, an audiologist examines patients, determines the cause and extent of hearing or balance issues, and administers an appropriate treatment plan for deaf or hard of hearing people.

An audiologist offers such services as auditory and assistive listening device training, fitting and monitoring hearing aids and cochlear implants, sign language or lip-reading training, and family counseling.

Audiologists work in schools, audiology clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Due to an aging population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 37% employment growth for audiologists from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.

How to become an audiologist

Audiologists must earn a doctoral degree (AuD) and obtain a license to enter the field. Vanderbilt University offers one of the top programs in the country, ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report. At Vanderbilt, education and training in audiology typically lasts four years. Students need a bachelor’s degree to enter most Doctor of Audiology degree programs.

The Vanderbilt University Doctoral Degree in Audiology

Audiologists need a Doctor of Audiology degree (AuD) to ensure the highest level of clinical service to patients with auditory, balance, and related hearing loss problems.

A Doctoral degree in Audiology typically includes courses in research methods, pediatric audiology, neuroanatomy, audiologic assessment, habilitation and rehabilitation, genetics, communication development, pharmacology, and ethics. Programs also include several hours of supervised clinical practice and research projects.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state; however, an audiologist needs a license in order to practice. Though not all employers require certification, audiologists can obtain certification through different organizations such as the American Board of Audiology or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA), which offers the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A). In some states, to acquire a license, audiologists need to graduate from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).

Doctoral Degree in Audiology admission requirements usually include:

  • Completion of an undergraduate degree in communication disorders or related field
  • Knowledge of American Sign Language
  • GRE scores
  • Minimum GPA requirement

childcare-providerChildcare Provider

Childcare providers work with children from birth to five years of age. They work in many settings, from private households and child day care centers to hospitals, clinics, and schools.

Most deaf children attend nursery and kindergarten classes in hospitals, clinics, and schools; the childcare providers work with these children in a structured setting alongside teachers and teacher assistants. Classes often involve language and vocabulary development, social interaction activities, and motor skills development.

Childcare providers of preschool deaf children may also work closely with parents, as well as provide other services such as preparing meals and snacks for children, developing schedules, and monitoring the safety of children in their care.

How to become a childcare provider

Childcare provider education and training typically requires an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a child development credential. However, requirements vary with employer, state regulations, and employment location. For example, some employers may require a childcare provider to have CPR and first aid certification, while others may need licensing. To qualify for licensing, most workers need to pass a background check and meet minimum education and training requirements.

Some childcare workers need certification; they receive their Child Development Associate (CDA) certification through the Council for Professional Recognition.

Associate in Early Childhood Education Degree

An Associate in Early Childhood Education degree program prepares students to use the education learned in childhood development and assessment and to apply this knowledge in a classroom setting.

The teaching programs consist of core courses in areas such as child language and literacy, child development, special education, health, safety, and nutrition, and educational assessment and planning. Many degree programs also require students to complete student teaching seminars.

Graduates of an associate’s program can become teachers or owners of businesses and can work in settings such as Head Start programs, day care centers, private homes, elementary schools, hospitals, and clinics.

An Associate in Early Childhood Education degree program admission requirements typically include:

  • High School diploma or equivalent
  • Completed application
  • Background checks (during semester study)

Child Development Associate Credential

The Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) Program evaluates and certifies early childhood education professionals. In order to obtain a CDA credential, applicants need a high school diploma or equivalent and to complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training with no fewer than 10 training hours in subject areas such as health and safety planning, child development, and building family relationships. Prior to applying for the credential, all applicants must meet specific prerequisites, including submitting:

  • Transcripts/certificates of education
  • A Professional Portfolio
  • Family Questionnaires

Once prerequisites are complete, students may submit a formal Child Development Associate Credential application and fee.

employment-counselorEmployment Counselor

An employment counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing develops advocacy programs specifically for the deaf community, and also provides assistance in finding career opportunities and job placements for deaf or hard of hearing clients.

In addition to personal and vocational counseling with deaf clients, many employment counselors organize and advocate for services in agencies serving deaf people.

Employment counselors work for state and private agencies, rehabilitation centers, and nonprofit organizations.

How to become an employment counselor

Educational programs in this field prepare students with courses in client assessment, educational research, and foundations in career development, as well as an intense supervised internship program.

Typically, to enter the field, employment counselors need a master’s degree with a focus on career development. However, some employers favor employment counselors who have a license and/or certification. Employment counselors who wish to become certified can take the National Certified Counselor (NCC) exam offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Contact the NBCC for more information on necessary credentials and licensing requirements to practice career counseling in your area.

Master in Counseling degree with a focus on career development

A master’s degree (MA) in counseling  program with a focus on career development provides advanced education and training for students seeking to become a certified career counselor. A Master in Counseling degree program prepares students for occupations as career counselors in areas such as private practices, community organizations, and government agencies.

A Master in Counseling program typically consists of core courses in areas such as principles of counseling and career development, educational research, and career program design. To graduate, most Master in Counseling programs require students to take additional courses specializing in career counseling and to complete several hours of a supervised internship.

Master in Counseling degree program admission requirements typically include:

  • Completed application
  • Undergraduate degree in counseling or related field
  • GRE scores
  • Interview
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay

Master of Science in Career Counseling

A Master of Science (MS) in Career Counseling degree offers theoretical and practical education in career counseling, which includes courses in career counseling assessment, educational research, and foundations of career development.

Graduates of a Master in Career Counseling program can work in areas such as private practices, community and government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. To graduate, students need to take all core courses and complete several hours of a supervised internship. Master in Career Counseling programs usually take up to two years to complete.

Admission requirements for a Master in Career Counseling degree program usually include:

  • Completed application
  • Undergraduate degree in counseling or related field
  • GRE scores
  • Interview
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay

Career counseling certificate programs

Those enrolled in graduate programs in career counseling typically have access to certificate programs. These programs focus on diversity in counseling, resource development, career counseling theory and assessment, organizational behavior, career development in special populations, and counseling administration. Career counseling certificate programs typically have from one to six classes. Students receive a certificate upon completion,which includes all necessary standards outlined by the National Career Development Association (NCDA).

Career counseling certificate programs admission requirements usually include:

  • College transcripts
  • GRE scores
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Personal essay

psychologist-who-works-with-deaf-childrenPsychologist

Psychologists work with deaf people in a multitude of settings, including schools, mental health clinics, research centers, and hospitals where psychologists provide psychological services for the deaf in all age ranges.

In mental health settings, clinical psychologists offer therapy, counseling, and exams for hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing patients.

School psychologists work in either a residential program for deaf students or in a mainstream program in school settings. They provide diagnostic tests and assistance to teachers and parents to help meet the special needs of students.

Other psychologists work in universities and research centers where they conduct research on issues in deafness, psychology, and mental health.

How to become a psychologist

Psychologists working with the deaf and the hard of hearing need specialized training and education that can last anywhere between five to seven years.

In order to receive a doctorate in psychology, students can follow two tracks and receive either a Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) or a PhD in Clinical Psychology, specializing in the deaf and the hard of hearing populations. Core subjects for both degrees include courses such as clinical psychology, ethics, child and adult development, psychology and deafness, dissertation research, psychopharmacology, and cognitive psychology.

Both PsyD and PhD programs typically require internship placements, a practicum, clinical training, a dissertation, and licensing. Practicing psychologists and school psychologists require licensure in all states. Specific requirements vary by state; the Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provide the information.

Internships generally last about a year. The psychology internship at The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Department of Psychiatry, is a pre-doctoral program and offers a specialized track for both hearing and deaf interns seeking training in services to the deaf population.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree programs provide graduate students with advanced training in the areas of clinical assessment, interventions, and applied research in deaf and hard of hearing medical and community settings. Programs include core graduate classes, specialization tracks, research, internships, clinical training, and exams. PsyD programs prepare students for all state and national certifications, as well as licensure requirements.

PhD in Clinical Psychology

PhD in Clinical Psychology degree programs offers students advanced research methods, clinical training, and instruction in psychology with specialization in working with deaf and hard of hearing communities.

Doctoral programs, such as the PhD in Clinical Psychology program at Gallaudet University, include core classes, proven sign language competency, practicum activities, clinical training, internships, dissertation research, and a paper.

PhD in Clinical Psychology programs prepare students for all state and national certifications, as well as licensure requirements.

Admission requirements for both doctoral degrees typically include:

  • Official transcripts of both undergraduate and graduate studies
  • Minimum GPA
  • Completed application
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores (if required)

sign-language-interpreterSign Language Interpreter

Professional sign language interpreters provide communication between deaf and hearing people in a variety of locations and occupational areas, such as medical offices, government agencies, hospitals, classrooms. and many other institutional settings.

Some sign language interpreters work as full-time staff interpreters, while others work as contracted freelancers.

Sign language interpreters learn special interpreting skills, techniques, and ethical standards to interact with deaf people in any situation, age range, and region.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a rapid employment growth for American Sign Language interpreters from 2010 to 2020, due to the increase in use of video relay services, which allow people to place Internet video calls and use a sign language interpreter simultaneously.

How to become a sign language interpreter

In order to become a sign language interpreter, students typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited interpreter program and certification through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) program. In fact, as of June 2012, students will need at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain RID certification. Some employers allow people with an associate’s degree to become an interpreter; however, most employers require a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Each state has its own list of educational and certification requirements in the sign language interpreting field, so check current state mandates in your area.

Gallaudet University, one of the top programs in the country offering sign language interpretation degrees, is the only university in the world offering both a Bachelor in ASL-English Interpretation degree (BAI) and a Master of Science (MS) in ASL-English Interpreting degree.

Bachelor ASL-English Interpretation degree

The bachelor’s in interpretation (BAI) degree program includes multiple courses and individualized field training experiences intended to provide students with specialized skills in areas such as business, legal, government, and mental health settings.

A BAI program, such as the program at Gallaudet University, takes 39 credit hours and four years to complete. Students can attend the program on a part-time basis. The program consists of coursework, fieldwork, and internships, as well as courses in ASL and Deaf Studies, psychology, business, communication, and linguistics.

A Bachelor’s in Interpretation degree program admission requirements typically include:

  • Acceptance into the university’s undergraduate program
  • Completed application form
  • Three personal essays
  • Letters of recommendation and transcripts
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • BAI committee interview
  • An American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI)

Master of Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting degree

The master of science (M.S.) in interpretation degree program at Gallaudet University is designed for deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing persons to master the techniques and skills necessary to work as interpreters in both the deaf and the hearing communities, as well as in professional work settings and advanced graduate programs.

The Master in Interpretation degree program encompasses courses and field experiences in specific legal, medical, business, government, mental health, and educational settings. The program requires 48 credit hours of course work, which includes a practicum, rotations, and a summer internship. Typically, students complete a Master in Interpretation degree program within a two-year time frame. Students can go to school full-time or part-time.

Admission requirements for a Master in Interpretation degree program usually include:

  • Completed application form
  • GRE or MAT
  • Official undergraduate transcripts
  • ASLPI scores
  • Three letters of reference
  • Video ASL and English samples

Important note: Only a small number of interpreter education programs have received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE). The important accreditation from the CCIE demonstrates that an interpreter education program has met CCIE’s standards. However, there are also several non-accredited interpreting programs; the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has a complete database of programs available.

sign-language-teacherSign Language Teacher

Sign language teachers educate students at multiple age and grade levels. They teach sign language to deaf students or hard of hearing students, and educate those who are studying sign language as part of an interpreter program.

Sign language teachers work in areas that range from infant ASL programs to graduate level ASL instruction. Figuring out which grade and age level to teach is the first step in starting a career as a sign language teacher.

How to become a sign language teacher

Educational degrees, licenses, and certifications vary for sign language teachers. For example, a bachelor’s degree, a teaching license, and/or passing a national teaching exam are the typical requirements for those who want to teach at private or public schools. However, sign language teachers seeking to work at the collegiate level may need a master’s degree.

Prospective students should check local state requirements before starting any program. Many college programs encourage sign language teachers to obtain certification through the American Sign Language Teacher’s Association (ASLTA).

Many colleges and universities offer American Sign Language (ASL) and/or Deaf Studies programs. These programs work in conjunction with interpreter education programs and place importance on learning the language to communicate, interpret, and teach ASL. Graduates can use these degrees obtain an instructor job or teach K–12 programs.

Bachelor Degree in American Sign Language

A bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language (BA-ASL) program offers students the opportunity to pursue a license in sign language interpretation or prepares students to teach ASL from Early Childhood through 12th grade.

At Lamar University (part of the Texas State University system), students need to complete 132 credit hours to complete the BA-ASL program, comprised of a core curriculum, pedagogy courses for licensure, and electives. The program provides students with the skills to excel in American Sign Language and prepares them for licensing, certification, and, if interested, advanced graduate studies.

A Bachelor in American Sign Language degree admission requirements usually include:

  • Completed application form
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • High school transcripts

Master of Teaching Sign Language (ASL) as a Foreign Language

The Master (MA) of Teaching American Sign Language as a foreign language program prepares students to obtain a graduate degree and teacher certification as teachers of ASL to students from grades 7 to 12. It provides students with the knowledge of psychology, linguistics, and curriculum development pertaining to the deaf and the hard of hearing communities.

In order to complete the Master (MA) of Teaching American Sign Language  as a foreign language program at colleges such as Columbia University, students must have a total of 45 credit hours, includingcore courses, electives, field observations, student teaching, and a final research project and paper.

Admission requirements for a Master (MA) of Teaching American Sign Language  as a foreign language program typically include:

  • Completed application form
  • General college admission requirements
  • Proficiency in ASL
  • Interview with program coordinators

American Sign Language Teacher Licensure Concentration

The American Sign Language (ASL) Teacher Licensure Concentration undergraduate program, offered through colleges such as the University of North Carolina Greensboro, prepares professionals to teach ASL as a second language to students in regular education programs. In order to obtain this degree, students must complete 126 semester hours, which include core courses such as linguistics, human diversity, and psychology, as well as actual student teaching.

Admission requirements for an American Sign Language (ASL) Teacher Licensure Concentration undergraduate program typically include:

  • Completed application
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • High school transcript
  • Official college transcripts (if attended)

social-worker-deafSocial Worker

Social workers provide many services to the deaf and the hard of hearing, their families, and the community. They also advocate for them with respect to the many social injustices which deaf communities face, and challenge the social welfare system on these issues, as needed.

Social workers review deaf and hard of hearing clients’ needs and situations to determine their goals and organize plans to improve their clients’ overall well-being.

Social workers develop programs and services to assist deaf and hard of hearing people and to make sure these services are always available to them.

Community mental health clinics, child welfare agencies, nursing homes, schools, health care organizations, private practices, and the court system all provide career opportunities in social work.

How to become a social worker

A degree in social work prepares students with the knowledge and skills sets necessary to work with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, families, organizations, and communities.

Typically, social workers working with the deaf and the hard of hearing need a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree to enter the field. Programs include core courses, deaf education, and ASL specialty courses and internships. A master’s degree typically includes all of these program requirements, plus a research project or thesis.

Clinical social workers need a license. Licensure varies by state, so contact the Association of Social Work Boards for more information.

Gallaudet University’s bachelor’s and master’s degree program information and requirements are given below.

The Gallaudet University Bachelor of Social Work degree

Gallaudet University’s bachelor’s degree program in social work (BSW) prepares students for admission to graduate school. The Council on Social Work Education has accredited the program since 1976. The program consists of 47 credits, including core coursework and supervised internships. Students need to take prerequisite courses prior to enter the program.

Gallaudet University’s bachelor’s and master’s degree program admission requirements:

  • Completed application form
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • High school transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Essay

Master of Social Work Degree

The Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program at Gallaudet University prepares deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students for many positions in social work services for the deaf and the hard of hearing communities. The Master of Social Work program consists of five core course areas in human behavior, social environment, social welfare policy, research field practicum, and social work practice. To graduate from the program students must take 63 credit hours, complete advanced courses in Deaf Studies and ASL, and complete a field internship, as well as submit a research project or thesis.

Admission requirements for a Master of Social Work program usually include:

  • Complete prerequisite coursework
  • Completed application
  • Three Letters of Reference
  • Personal essay
  • Interview

speech-language-pathologistSpeech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat both adults and children with speech and communication disorders. These professionals help patients with hearing, language, swallowing, and speech issues, which may have resulted from brain injuries, genetic disorders, hearing loss, and other learning and developmental disabilities.

Speech-language pathologists offer a range of professional services from educating people on communication and social adjustment strategies to assisting patients and their families in understanding and coping with communication issues.

Speech-language pathologists also work in a variety of areas, including hospitals, schools, medical offices, patients’ homes, and home health facilities, as well as many other educational and clinical settings.

How to become a speech language pathologist

In order to become a speech-language pathologist, most students need a master’s degree (MS) in speech-language pathology, certification, and licensure. The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) accredits education programs in speech-language pathology. In 2010 the CAA accredited 253 master’s degree programs in this field.

Graduate degree programs offered through accredited colleges prepare students to meet state and school licensure requirements, as well as important academic, clinical, and credentialing requirements provided by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) may also satisfy some or all of the requirements for licensure demanded by certain employers.

Master in Speech-Language Pathology degree

The University of Iowa (UI) provides one of the top Master’s (MA) in Speech-Language pathology programs in the country; the program is ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report.

In order to complete the Master in Speech-Language pathology program at UI, students must take core courses in areas such as:

  • Structural disorders
  • Phonology
  • Dysphagia
  • Designing assistive devices

In addition, most Master in Speech-Language pathology programs require several hours of clinical practicum and medical externships, as well as a research paper/thesis.

Admission requirements for a Master in Speech-Language Pathology degree program usually include:

  • Completion of program application
  • Undergraduate and graduate college transcripts
  • Prerequisite courses
  • GRE scores
  • Essay
  • Letters of Recommendation

teacher-of-deaf-childrenTeacher of Deaf Children

A career in teaching deaf children can range from educating infants to working in elementary and high school settings. Educators working with deaf students teach in schools for deaf children or in public schools where deaf students are mainstreamed.

Deciding where to teach and which grade level to specialize in is an important step in the process. For example, a child specialist in deaf education can teach preschool children in public or private schools, in special clinics, and in a child’s home.

If an educator decides to teach the elementary grades, he or she learns specific language and communication techniques to work with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. At the middle or high school level, teachers specialize in academic areas such as art, English, math, or vocational training.

How to become a teacher of deaf children

Becoming a teacher of deaf children typically involves a bachelor’s (BA or BS) or master’s degree (MA or MEd) in deaf education. Many programs have dual licensure in deaf education, as well as general and/or special education.

Most undergraduate degree programs in deaf education include core education courses such as American Sign Language, audiology, child development and psychology, electives, student teaching experience, and special teacher exams.

Most graduate degrees in deaf education include internships, a practicum, and core courses leading to certification from the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED). The CED endorses many college and university programs preparing educators of the deaf; please check the CED website (councilondefed.org) for more information.

Bachelor in Deaf Education degree

A bachelor’s (BA or BS) in Deaf Education degree program prepares students to become competent education professionals with the skills necessary to teach the proper programs to meet the emotional, behavioral, academic, and social needs of deaf and hard of hearing students.

In order to obtain an undergraduate degree in deaf education, students at the University of Montevallo must complete 97 total credit hours, comprised of core classes in both general and deaf education, electives, student teaching, and an internship.

Admission requirements for a Bachelor in Deaf Education degree usually include:

  • Completed application
  • Completion of undergraduate general education studies
  • Interview
  • Minimum GPA
  • Portfolio
  • Passing score on teacher exams
  • Background check

Master in Deaf Education Degree

A master’s (MA or MEd) in deaf or hard of hearing education degree, offered through colleges such as the University of Arizona, prepare qualified teachers to work with students who have different levels of hearing loss. The programs emphasize communication and literacy development, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of deaf students in numerous educational settings.

The University of Arizona program combines professional core courses, such as rehabilitation of deaf students and language development classes, with a practicum and a nine-week, full-time internship. This program, and most similar college programs, lead graduates to obtain certification through the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED).

Admission requirements for a Master in Deaf Education degree program typically include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in education or related field
  • Completed program application
  • GRE scores (if necessary)
  • GPA requirements
  • State or national teacher exam scores