Audiology Degrees by Degree Program Level
Audiology is a scientific field concerned with the study of hearing. People who work in the field diagnose and treat issues like hearing loss and run tests to assess patients' ability to hear sounds of all frequencies. While degree programs specifically in audiology are offered only at the graduate level, many schools offer bachelor's degree programs in related fields like speech and hearing science.
Bachelor's Degree in Speech and Hearing Science
While earning a bachelor's degree in a subject like speech and hearing science isn't adequate preparation for a career as an audiologist, it is preparation for a graduate degree program in the subject. Bachelor's degree programs in speech and hearing science teach students concepts related to hearing, language, speaking and swallowing. Students learn to recognize the symptoms of various disorders and pathologies that affect people ability to speak or hear.
Applicants to speech and hearing science bachelor's degree programs should be sure to do well in their mathematics and science courses in high school. Interested students should also have strong oral and written communication skills, so excelling in English classes is a good idea.
Students in speech and hearing science bachelor's degree programs take classes about speech and language, language disorders, and hearing. Some offer classes with clinical components, giving students hands-on experience working with patients. The topics noted below are often offered:
- American sign language
- Pediatric speech disorders
- Communication disorder statistics
- Voice disorders
Popular Career Options
People who enter the workforce after earning a bachelor's degree in speech and hearing science are qualified for a number of entry-level jobs in the field. Graduates often hold the job titles listed below:
- Speech language pathologist assistant
- Audiologist assistant
- Direct care staff
Master's Degree in Speech and Hearing Science
Master's degree programs in speech and hearing science combine advanced theoretical discussion with basic clinical instruction. Programs emphasize concepts in speech language pathology and audiology. Students can often choose between clinical and non-clinical tracks, depending on their career goals after graduation. Additionally, some programs offer students the option of either completing a thesis or extra coursework.
People interested in applying to speech and hearing science master's degree programs need to submit official transcripts from their undergraduate school and their score on the graduate records examination (GRE). Many schools also ask that students submit letters of recommendation attesting to their research and academic abilities. Some programs look for students with a background in disciplines like psychology or linguistics.
The coursework in speech and hearing science master's degree programs varies depending on the track a student chooses. People interested in becoming audiologists usually take more hands-on courses than those who want to enter more theoretical areas of the field. Students often take courses in the subjects mentioned below:
- Cultural communication differences
- Neurological aspects of oral communication
- Biology of oral communication
- Hearing physiology
- Language acquisition
Popular Career Options
People who earn a master's degree in speech and hearing science often continue their education at the doctorate level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, notes that all new audiologists must earn an Au.D. to practice, which is the doctoral degree in audiology. Those who enter a career after earning a master's degree often hold the following positions:
- Licensed speech language pathologist
- Hearing assessment specialist
Professional Licensure and Continuing Education Info
All new audiologists must hold a doctoral degree in audiology to become licensed audiologists. Requirements vary by state, but most ask that audiologists pass a written exam, complete a supervised internship and participate in continuing education classes periodically.
Clinical Doctorate Degree in Audiology
People interested in working with patients as audiologists earn a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree. Au.D. programs build on students' previous coursework in speech and hearing science to teach advanced concepts related to assessing and assisting people with aural and communication disorders. Programs take four years to complete and usually include a clinical internship in the final year.
Some programs admit as few as 12 students a year, so competition can be strong. Applicants who have completed previous coursework in speech and hearing science often have an advantage over those with no previous experience. Typically, though, Au.D. programs will accept students with degrees in a myriad of fields. In any case, applicants' undergraduate transcripts should reflect good grades, and students should earn a high score on the GRE.
Au.D. program coursework emphasizes practical methods used to assist patients. Some programs allow students to choose an emphasis in particular areas of audiology. Students are exposed to the topics below:
- Human auditory electrophysiology
- Peripheral hearing studies
- Vestibular disorders
- Auditory system physiology
Employment Outlook and Earnings Information
The BLS predicts job growth of about 37% for audiologists between 2010 and 2020, partly due to the increase in the number of people reaching old age during that time. The BLS notes that the average annual salary for audiologists in 2012 was $72,890.
Continuing Education Options
In addition to state licensure, audiologists can earn a voluntary Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The American Board of Audiology also offers professional credentials.
Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Audiology
People interested in the theoretical aspects of audiology often earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in the subject. Ph.D. programs in audiology emphasize the research methodology and statistical analyses used to gather and interpret data related to hearing. Students in audiology Ph.D. programs are required to complete a dissertation before earning their degree.
Many programs require Ph.D. students to hold a master's degree in speech and hearing science or an Au.D. before enrolling. Programs also require students to submit letters of academic reference and a personal statement.
The coursework in audiology Ph.D. programs emphasizes a theoretical approach to hearing science through applied research and data analysis. Students conduct extensive work investigating the causes and symptoms of hearing disorders. The following subjects are often covered:
- Neurology of auditory perception
- Audiology research methods
- Statistics for audiology
- Audiology theory
- Clinical techniques in audiology
Popular Career Options
Audiology Ph.D. programs provide students with a knowledge base applicable to many advanced careers in the field. Graduates often choose the careers listed below:
- University professor
- Audiology researcher
- Audiology consultant
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