Sign Language Studies-Interpreter - Southwestern Illinois College

  • Hourly wages: $30 to $75
  • Program Location: Belleville Campus
  • Program Start Time: Fall and Spring semesters
  • Learn practical language communication skills
  • Prepare for State Certification Exams required to work as a Sign Language Interpreter
Sign Language Interpreter with fireworks
Our students at the Alton Night Market

Job opportunities in a wide variety of fields: Work in schools, medical, mental health, legal, and so much more! – Interpreters are needed everywhere!

Length of Program

Two-year degree program to become an interpreter / Two-semester program for Basic Communication

Sign Language Student with eagle
Interpreting for the Birds of Prey for Practicum

Program Location

The Sign Language Studies degree program consists of general education courses, SLS pre-fix courses, and field experiences. The certificate program consists of SLS pre-fix courses and field experiences. Specific course locations depend on the course type.

General Education Courses

General education courses required for the degree program can be taken at the Belleville, Sam Wolf Granite City, or Red Bud campuses.

Sign Language Studies Courses

SLS courses required for the degree and certificate programs are only offered at the Belleville Campus.

Field Experiences and Practicum Courses

Field experience courses are completed off-campus at various deaf/hard-of-hearing community events. Students will be required to travel outside of the college district for field experience courses, SLS 101, SLS 102, SLS 203, SLS 206, and SLS 230 and may be required to have background checks and/or drug testing prior.

Interpreting the National Anthem as a class project

Program Cost

Sign Language Studies certificate program

For details, see the Sign Language Studies Certificate cost sheet.

Sign Language Studies degree program

For details, see the Sign Language Studies Degree cost sheet.

Financial assistance is available!

SWIC Financial Aid office

Financial aid is available subject to financial need and satisfactory academic progress requirements set by the college.

There is a Student Work program for which financial aid eligibility is not required.

SWIC Foundation office

The SWIC Foundation office offers more than 200 scholarships based on residency, enrollment and GPA criteria.

A man holds a sign that says "No talking beyond this point"
We have many language immersion events that enhance language learning!

Time Commitment

Participation and Practice

Time, dedication, study, immersion in the deaf/hard-of-hearing community and constant practice is required to develop proficiency in signing and interpreting. The level of skill students attain is directly related to their participation and practice.

Study Time

For each hour of class time spent in lecture, students should plan to spend two hours outside of class for study time, homework, and completing assignments. For each hour of class time spent learning skills, students should spend an equal amount of time outside of class practicing those skills.


Students should check the location and schedule of classes to ensure their own availability and access. Students are responsible for their own transportation and attendance at any of the classes and field experience/practicum assigned by the program.

Work Requirements

Missouri and Illinois require interpreters to hold the BEI certification (Board of Evaluation of Interpreters) in order to be eligible for a license. The state of Illinois has an option of testing for the EIPA (Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment) for the K-12 setting, and RID hosts the National test, NIC (National Interpreter Certification). The SLS curriculum prepares graduates for each of these exams and helps our students decide which options fit best with their career goals.

Transfer Opportunities

SWIC welcomes transfers from any program and does not have out-of-state fees. Our Sign Language courses are eligible for foreign language credit, subject to the approval of the school you may be transferring to.


SWIC’s Sign Language Studies graduates work in both Illinois and Missouri.  In the Metro-East area, there are two different certification tests that graduates can take to become employable.  Both tests are meant to challenge the candidates.  Since these tests are rigorous, the need for retakes is not atypical.  The average pass rate for both tests is higher among SWIC graduates than the general public.

The BEI, the Board of Evaluation of Interpreters.  This certification allows an interpreter to work in both Illinois and Missouri in K-12 and community settings.  

Average General Public BEI Pass Rate in Illinois:  38% (2019)

Average General Public BEI Pass Rate in Texas:  43% (2019)

Average SWIC graduate BEI Pass Rate:  64% (5-year average from 2017-2021)

The EIPA, the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment – This certification limits interpreting to the K-12 settings in Illinois.  The highest possible score is a 5.0.  Passing is 3.0 or above in the state of Illinois. 

National General Public EIPA Pass Rate:  55% (2018)

SWIC’s EIPA Pass Rate:  96% (5-year average from 2017-2021)

Get Started

For more information, please fill out the contact form.

ASL students take a trip to the St. Louis Zoo!

Please check out our Facebook Group for even more information about our program and current events!