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American Annals of the Deaf

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Evolving Paradigms in Interpreter Education
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Table 1. Conference of Interpreter Trainers 2002–2003, Demographic Survey

Total responses to survey 185 Percentage (%)

Members holding PhDs
Members holding MA/MS/Med
Members holding BA/BS
Members holding AA/AS
Members, “college in progress”
(no indication which degree)






The first hurdle we face is to earn the doctoral degrees that prepare us with a strong foundation in a discipline and a clear understanding of the rigors of research and publication. As of this writing, Gallaudet offers the only doctoral degree in interpreting, which is certainly a step forward for our field, but it is not necessarily the preferred degree for all our faculty of the future. There are many options, such as doctoral degrees in adult learning, curriculum, and linguistics. It is time we stop whining about the lack of terminal degrees in our field and raise our heads to see the many possibilities that could support our academization!

The Next Generation in Higher Education

The Academy

Given the move toward contingent or alternative faculty positions in the academy, it gives one pause to consider whether completing a doctoral degree is realistic. Who will replace the current tenured faculty in our IEPs and how can we ensure the future of our field? The love of learning is not enough in our world today, unless one is financially independent. Most of us need to ask what kind of job awaits after the doctoral degree. Life in the academy is not what it used to be: Everyone is expected to do more with less. Contingent faculty members are increasing while the number of tenure-track positions are decreasing at an alarming rate. If our field is to continue its march toward academization, research needs to be the heart of our work. However, at a recent webinar, directors of the three master’s programs in the United States were asked about potential employment for their graduates. The consensus was that earning such a degree would allow for advancement in nonacademic settings; teaching positions were not mentioned as the primary goal.

There has been a “vision of the ideal worker” in higher education for quite some time. “Ideal academic workers moved from their doctoral programs . . . directly into tenure-track faculty positions” and they “dedicated themselves fully to their work, particularly during” the pretenure period. This mindset was true for the “middle-class white men” who composed the faculty in higher education “from approximately the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth” (Gappa et al. 2007, 26–27). Although the demographics of the academy have changed in recent years, this view remains. “One of the most significant demographic changes for faculty is the increasing presence of women”; in 2003, women were 44% of new faculty members, up from 20% in 1969 (59). In addition, “in 2003, for the first time, women earned 51% of all doctoral degrees awarded” (61).

ASL/English Interpreting

Gappa et al. (2007, 29) continue: “Although men and women alike are expressing concern about their personal lives [and the strain of balancing work/home], women in particular have a difficult time finding a satisfactory balance between home and work.” This seems to be of particular importance to our field, given that the majority of interpreters are women. The RID reports a total membership of 13,778; approximately 85% are females (personal correspondence, Erica White, January 25, 2010). The Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT; the professional organization for interpreter educators in the United States) reported 272 members in 2002–2003, 185 of whom responded to that year’s demographic survey. Of those 185 participants, 156 (84%) were female (CIT 2004, 1). (See table 1.) Is this part of the reason why we have so few scholars with doctoral degrees? Did the field of ASL/English interpreting miss out on the era of middle-class white men as a core group of scholars? The scales tipped in higher education in 2003, with more women earning doctoral degrees than men. The scales in our field tipped a long time ago toward women, but we have not kept pace with the trend in higher education. For the most part, our female educators, although a majority of the organization, do not have doctoral degrees.

Unfortunately, given a few minutes, it is possible to name all those in our field who do have doctoral degrees. I daresay it would be impossible for an English professor at any American college or university to create a list of his/her peers in a comparable amount of time.

I have no data to explain why individuals—female or male—do not pursue doctoral degrees in our field, only anecdotal comments that are familiar to us all: high tuition, no local programs, family responsibilities, no future positions, etc. Many sacrifices need to be made by and for the doctoral student—family, financial, social; we have all made them and survived. I have yet to meet anyone in our field who regrets the degree and the opportunities it affords (although I am sure there is someone out there). We are, after all, in the business of education. What we, as a field, must address is how to encourage our next generation to pursue terminal degrees. Every single graduate with a doctorate leads us further in the academization process.

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