Communication Support Worker Careers

How to become a communication support worker

What does a communication support worker do?

Communication support workers (CSWs) support deaf learners in further and higher education. They assist deaf learners to follow lectures and access the same information and services as hearing learners.

The CSW works as part of a support team that includes a teacher of the deaf (TOD), who assesses the needs of each individual learner and then negotiates with the mainstream teaching staff to plan the most appropriate ways of communication support. The CSW will then work under the direction of the teacher of the deaf to carry out these plans. Working with the learner in the classroom (or other learning environment), the CSW could provide communication support using a range of methods, such as:

  • British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreting in lectures, tutorials and meetings
  • lipspeaking – silently repeating a hearing person’s words using clear lip shapes, gestures and facial expressions, as an aid to lipreading
  • note-taking – CSWs can take handwritten or typed notes for the learner to use later, allowing the learner to give their full attention to the lecturer or BSL interpreter during a class.

The methods used will depend on the TOD's recommendations, and on the skills and qualifications of the individual CSW.

Senior CSWs may co-ordinate a communication support team and carry out related administrative duties.

Communication support workers are mainly used in England and Wales. Colleges and universities in Scotland and Northern Ireland provide BSL/English interpreting and notetaking services for their deaf learners, but the formal CSW role is rare.


What's the working environment like for a communication support worker?

Many communication support workers work 25 to 30 hours a week during college or university term time, typically 30 to 40 weeks a year. Part-time and sessional work is common, especially since many deaf learners may only attend college on a part-time basis.

They work in all situations where a learner could receive academic or vocational tuition, such as classrooms, lecture theatres or laboratories, or outdoors on farms, building sites, and other real life working environments. Some travel may be required between college sites so a driving licence would be useful.

What does it take to become a communication support worker?

To be a communication support worker you should:

  • have excellent communication skills in English (spoken and written) and BSL
  • be flexible and adaptable
  • be able to build good working relationships with learners, tutors, lecturers and other professionals
  • be willing to carry out research, for example, in order to familiarise yourself with specialised vocabulary
  • have an awareness and understanding of deaf culture and issues in the education of deaf people
  • be impartial, able to respect learners’ confidentiality and be committed to equal opportunities
  • be computer literate.


Communication support worker career opportunities

There is the possibility to move into a management position for either disability services or sensory impairment. 

Further information

If you would like to know more about becoming a communication support worker that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP)
Durham University Science Park
Block 4
Stockton Road
Tel: 0191 383 1155
Textphone: 0191 383 7915

National Association for the Tertiary Education of Deaf People (NATED)
161 Mount Pleasant
B97 4JJ


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