British sign language interpreter

British sign language (BSL) interpreters help deaf and hearing people communicate with one another.

Annual Salary

£20,000 to £35,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours


Future employment

There will be 3% more British sign language interpreter jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • preparing before assignments
  • listening carefully to, or watching, what is said or signed
  • interpreting what is said or signed
  • finding the best way to express everything that is said or signed

Many interpreters are self-employed and work for the police or hospitals.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • working towards this role
  • training with a professional body


You can do a foundation degree or a degree in British Sign Language (BSL) and deaf studies.

Some knowledge of BSL will be helpful when you apply, though this is not always essential.

Universities will want to know about your reasons for applying and will assess your BSL skills before you start.

After finishing your course, you could go on to complete a teaching qualification, like a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), which you may need if you want to teach in schools.

You'll usually need:

  • at least 1 A level for a foundation degree 
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree


You can do a Level 1 and 2 Certificate in British Sign Language (BSL) before moving on to a higher level qualification.

Employers like schools and colleges usually look for a minimum of a Level 3 or 4 Certificate in British Sign Language. Some will ask for a Level 6 Certificate.

You'll also be expected to have a qualification in your own subject area aside from BSL, and usually a teaching award. For example a Level 4 or 5 Diploma in Education and Training to teach in a college.

Entry requirements for these courses vary.


You can start as a sign language teaching assistant or communication support worker and do training on the job to get a British Sign Language (BSL) qualification at level 3 or higher. You can then do further study for a teaching or training qualification to become a BSL teacher.

You can also train in BSL, if you're already working as a teacher in a school or college.

Other routes

You can complete British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications with a professional body like Signature or the Institute of British Sign Language. These organisations offer qualifications from introductory level up to level 6.

It is recommended that you work towards a Level 6 Certificate in British Sign Language, if you want be a BSL teacher.

Further information

You can find out more about how to become a British Sign Language teacher from Signature and the Institute of British Sign Language.

£20,000 to £35,000

Starter salary: £20,000 to £22,000

Experienced salary: £24,000 to £28,000

Fees and salaries for BSL interpreters vary widely depending on experience, employer and location.

Freelance interpreters can earn £25 to £30 an hour, and many contracts have a 2 or 3 hour minimum booking.

You may receive extra payment for preparation time, travel and for working unsocial hours.

These figures are a guide.


You may work irregular hours if you’re freelance, which could include evenings and weekends.

You’ll usually work normal office hours if you’re employed by a company.

You could teach and assess others, sign at theatre or television performances, or move into research.

You could also become self-employed and work freelance.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • the ability to work well with others
  • knowledge of English language
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to create the best conditions for learning or teaching new things
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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