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Speech, Language, & Hearing Science

Nature of the Work

Providing the research on which clinicians base their methodology, speech, language and hearing scientists:

  • Explore trends in communication sciences.
  • Develop strategies for expanding the knowledge base in their field.
  • Investigate the biological, physical, and physiological processes of communication.
  • Explore the impact of psychological, social, and other factors on communication disorders.
  • Develop evidence-based methods for diagnosing and treating individuals with speech, language and hearing problems. 
  • Collaborate with related professionals (such as engineers, physicians, dentists, educators) to develop a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating individuals with speech, voice, language and hearing problems.

In addition, researchers may:

  • Prepare future professionals and scientists in Schools and universities.
  • Conduct research at or consult with universities, hospitals, government health agencies and industries.

As with audiologists and speech-language pathologists, research scientists are educated in their specific area of interest. However, while clinicians can practice with a master's degree or clinical doctorate, scientists must earn a research doctorate.

Work Sites

  • Schools and Universities
  • Research Laboratories and Institutes
  • State and Federal Government Agencies
  • Private Industry

Entry Requirements

To become a speech, language, or hearing scientist, you must have a sincere interest in the development of the field of human communication sciences and disorders. You should also select undergraduate courses from a variety of scientific disciplines including physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, linguistics, psychology, as well as a program of study in the speech, language and hearing sciences. The next step is to obtain a Master's degree. This will begin to direct you into a particular area of interest; an area that you believe needs further exploration. Give careful thought to the doctoral programs to which you apply as that program will act as a vehicle for making contact with other professionals in the field, and those with whom you will work on your doctoral dissertation. This work will be the basis of future research pursuits in the communication sciences and disorders.

Earnings

Salaries of speech, language and hearing scientists vary depending on experience, employment setting, and geographical location.

Working Conditions

The quality of the environment in which you work is dependent upon the amount of revenue a particular facility generates. That is, facilities that produce more credible research generally have more revenue to allocate to things such as equipment, laboratory facilities and perhaps even to salary. Because the fields of audiology and speech-language pathology are expanding, so do the research areas that accompany those fields. Chances are, if you develop a research plan, and formulate it well usually, there is a funding source and laboratory setting available to you.

Size of the Profession

ASHA currently represents over 130,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Less than one percent of the ASHA members and affiliates identified research as their primary employment function.

Future Outlook

With genetics and hereditary research being the driving force of the future, research scientists have much to look forward to! Not only will there be opportunity to examine causality and progression issues, there will also be time to explore new techniques to prevent, identify, assess and rehabilitate speech, language, and hearing impairments. In addition, researchers will continue to investigate the neurobiological, neurophysiological and physical processes underlying normal communication. Furthermore, the future holds great opportunity for research scientists to investigate and examine cultural diversity in human communication. Additionally, there will be more opportunities for scientists and clinical practitioners to collaborate as they will design and implement multicenter randomized behavioral and medical treatment protocols for disorders of speech, voice/swallowing, language, hearing, and balance. There are extreme shortages of speech, language, and hearing scientists and teacher-scholars in all areas of the country, especially in inner city, rural, and less populated areas.

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