Any place or setting that involves communication between the Deaf community and their hearing peers might require the services of an ASL interpreter- meaning that interpreting is essential in more places than you can imagine. 

As a professional interpreter, you can work on varied projects that differ in their expectations, challenges, and requirements. While you can benefit from wearing several hats, a great way of differentiating yourself from your competitors is to pick a specialized setting you like and focus solely on that. 

If you wish to create a niche for yourself but are confused about the options, look no further.  Below, we briefly discuss 4 distinct types of interpreting settings. We also explore the requirements and expectations of each to give you clear insight into the different settings. 

Healthcare interpreting

Clear communication is essential when dealing with medical professionals. There is no room for misunderstandings often caused by language barriers. Any information, shared or withheld, can be critical and affect the course of treatment and, ultimately, the patient’s health.

To effectively aid communication in healthcare settings, interpreters must be well-versed in medical terminologies and have good bedside manners. Information that a medical interpreter can help convey includes-

  1. The Deaf or hard-of-hearing patient’s symptoms, as shared by the patient
  2. The patient’s medical history, if the patient wishes to share it with the healthcare professional
  3. The doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis
  4. The course of treatment, as prescribed by the doctor
  5. The possible side effects, as explained by the doctor

Additionally, interpreters can help communicate and clarify any doubts the patient might have regarding their ailment or treatment. They can also assist with a patient’s follow-up care. 

Since medical interpreters can impact the effectiveness of a patient’s diagnosis and the consequent treatment, there are several requirements that they must meet before choosing this interpreting setting. 

To become a medical interpreter, you must consider meeting the following requirements-

  • Proof of knowledge of medical terminologies
  • Completion of 40 hours of medical interpreting training
  • Certified experience 
  • Becoming a Certified Healthcare Interpreter (CHI) by passing the CoreCHI exam by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)
  • Becoming an Interpreter Service Provider (ISP) by earning a certification through the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA)
  • Becoming a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) through the National Board of Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI)

Legal and court interpreting

Legal settings require highly proficient interpreters with in-depth knowledge of law enforcement and the legal system. Here, the scope of work extends to aiding communication during investigations, testimonies, interviews, interrogations, court proceedings, and client-attorney interactions.

While the required credentials to become a legal interpreter may vary according to each state, you might consider-

  • Having proof of knowledge of legal terminologies and system
  • Gaining supervised field experience
  • Completing training and workshops as provided by state courts and local/national associations (Like the Legal Interpreting Training Program by ASLIS)
  • Passing certification exams as mandated by the state’s court

Conference interpreting

Conference interpreting happens in real-time, where interpreters must sign simultaneously with the speaker. Also known as platform interpreters, these interpreters help Deaf people access information and participate in conferences. Depending on the duration and nature of the event, these professionals may also have to work in groups of varying sizes. 

Interpreters facilitate communication during speeches and presentations, workshops, breakout sessions, and social interactions. Since their services can be necessary for numerous situations, interpreters must have the ability to be flexible with their style of interpreting.

To become a conference interpreter, you must:

  • Become skilled in simultaneous interpreting
  • Possess knowledge of industry phrases and terms
  • Be a team player and support your team of interpreters
  • Learn about the event and its organizers beforehand
  • Complete formal training (Check out interpreting programs that meet the American Association of Conference Interpreters’ guidelines) 
  • Practice interpreting with equipment

Mental health interpreting

Mental health interpreting can positively impact the well-being of Deaf individuals. This interpreting setting helps the Deaf community access mental health providers and services. It is a very critical job that requires highly skilled interpreters. Here, every aspect of communication (tone, context, structure, vocabulary, language proficiency, body language, etc.) can significantly affect diagnosis and treatment. Thus, the interpreter must be able to replicate the nuances found in the Deaf client’s communication. 

The scope of work in this setting is vast. Mental health interpreting can include psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychological testing, counseling, social work, rehabilitation, and forensic therapy, among several others. Depending on the type of work, the location can vary from offices and homes to hospitals and prisons. 

Since clients can be emotionally charged during such sessions, interpreters must be trained to deal with triggering and intense situations. To become a proficient mental health interpreter, you must: 

  • Develop emotional intelligence and intrapersonal skills
  • Possess cultural competence
  • Maintain a high standard of confidentiality 
  • Understand mental health terminologies
  • Understand the unique communication requirements of this setting
  • Undergo proper training, as offered by various programs, including the Alabama Mental Health Interpreter Training
  • Mentor with experienced mental health interpreters for a minimum of 50 hours

Other types of interpreting

Other than the ones mentioned above, many different interpreting settings exist. Some of these are as listed- 

  • Educational
  • Tourism
  • Military 
  • Media (live news, press conferences, interviews) 
  • Public Sector (welfare, environmental, housing)
  • Faith-based (for religious organizations) 
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Performing arts
  • Funerals
  • Business
  • Social Service


As an ASL interpreter, there are various specializations that you can choose from to create a niche and gain a competitive edge. Upon choosing a specialization, you can find training programs and certifications needed to gain proficiency in the field. 

Next, start looking for clients and projects in the interpreting setting of your choosing! Unspoken Language Services works with contract ASL interpreters, offering interpreting services in varied settings, including medical, mental health, legal, business, conference, workers’ compensation, and educational. We connect talented interpreters like you with clients in need of interpretation. Join us to get access to numerous projects and clients. 

Thumbnail Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio