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What is an Audiologist? Strategies for Entry into Graduate Schools Thinking About a PhD in Audiology?
Thinking about a PhD? How do I apply What are career opportunities?

Strategies for Entry into Graduate Schools in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)

Choosing an academic program

Embarking on a career in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) can be exciting and challenging. There are so many career options in this field with a great employment outlook. A compiled series of questions and answers with resources to assist you in the process of identifying your career interests, finding the right academic program to meet your career goals, and facilitating a successful graduate school application experience.

Step 1: Explore your personal interests

Step 2: Learn about academic programs and how to select a program that best matches your personal goals

Step 3: Learn how to navigate the application process

Step 1: Explore your personal interests

What is motivating me to pursue a career in CSD?
Perhaps a friend or loved one has a hearing, balance, communication or swallowing disorder or you are drawn to the science of the professions. Whatever the motivation, it is important to give some thought to what you want for your future career.

What are my professional goals?
Do you envision working as a clinician with certain populations such as children, adolescents or adults with a particular disorder such as autism or hearing impairment? Perhaps you will consider clinical administration in health or education settings or choose to pursue a PhD and career as a faculty-researcher. There are many career options available in the professions so getting a sense of what your goals are can impact where you choose to study and what degrees will be necessary to achieve your goals.

How can I find a program that will be a good match for me?
Geographic location is a consideration for all students as some may have flexibility in where they can go to school while others may be constrained to a particular area. There are numerous CAA accredited programs offering entry-level degrees in audiology and/or speech-language pathology and approximately 70 PhD degree programs to choose from throughout the US. Academic programs are found in urban, suburban and rural settings in all 50 states. Visiting the campus and talking with students offers valuable information about the faculty and student body that will help guide your decision. It is recommended that you visit the facilities such as the clinic, classrooms and any research labs.

Your CSD program may be in an institution with an established research tradition or be part of a small teaching focused college. To learn about the different institutional classifications, you can review descriptions online at the Carnegie Foundation Web site. Despite the size of university institutions, graduate CSD programs rarely exceed 50 students. Learning about a program's faculty, curriculum, research interests and clinical education opportunities will help you decide which program is best for you.

Step 2: Learn about academic programs

What is CAA accreditation?
Why is it important to consider an accredited program? The Council of Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) is a semi autonomous council that accredits entry level graduate programs in audiology and speech-language pathology. Attending a CAA accredited program is necessary for eligibility for the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) and most states require graduation from an accredited program for licensure or teacher certification. CAA accreditation is standards-based and requires continuous program improvement, which ensures students are being taught the most up-to-date information available for what they need to know to get a job and have a successful career.

What is an entry-level degree?
An entry-level degree is required for individuals who seek the necessary credentials to practice in the profession.

  • The entry-level degree to become a certified audiologist is currently a doctoral or other recognized graduate degree for which a minimum of 75 semester credit hours of post-baccalaureate credits have been earned. Beginning January 1, 2012, a doctoral degree is required as the entry-level degree for certification in audiology.
  • The clinical entry-level degree requirement to become a certified speech-language pathologist is a master's degree.

What is the difference between a clinical doctoral and a research doctoral degree?

  • The clinical doctorate (e.g., AuD, SLPD), whether pursued as an entry-level or post entry-level degree program, comprises a curriculum designed to cover the breadth and depth of clinical practice and may include a research experience or a research requirement (e.g., thesis or capstone project). This degree prepares individuals for clinical practice, administration, and clinical track faculty positions. The clinical doctorate does not automatically qualify one for a faculty position at institutions where a research doctoral degree is required for such an appointment. For this reason, professionals may choose to continue their education to include the research doctoral degree.
  • The research doctorate (e.g., PhD) is designed to prepare one for an academic and research career with the expectation of contributing to the science of the discipline as well as to the preparation of future professionals and scientists. The program of study for a PhD degree is designed to permit one to more extensively study a focused area of interest within the discipline, to learn the scientific method, to acquire the skill set necessary to independently pursue a line of research and to secure funding for research in one's area of interest.

What degree designator should I look for?
The degree awarded is an institutional prerogative based on consistency with the mission and structure of the college/university. Often, the difference may be related to course requirements, thesis requirement or administrative authority of the program to confer a particular type of degree. Check with the particular program for further information. Some common degree designators used in CSD are identified below.

  • Master's degree designators: A Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) are common degree designators for graduate programs in speech-language pathology. Other examples include, but are not limited to, the Master of Education (MEd) and Master of Health Science (MHS).
  • Clinical doctoral degree designators: The Doctor of Audiology (AuD) is a prevalent degree designator for audiology clinical doctoral degrees. Other audiology degree designators include the Doctor of Science (ScD) and the clinical Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Examples of speech-language pathology clinical doctoral degree designators include the Doctor of Clinical Science (CScD) and Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD).
  • Research doctoral degree designators: The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the most prevalent research doctoral degree awarded in CSD. Other designators include the Doctor of Education (EdD), the Doctor of Arts (DA) and the Doctor of Science (ScD). It is critical that you review the degree program requirements to determine if the program of study results in a research doctoral or clinical doctoral degree in order to pursue the degree that allows you to achieve your personal goals.

Will I have an opportunity to engage in research activities?
Many undergraduate and graduate programs offer research experiences and/or require that students participate in research activities such as writing a thesis or completing a capstone project. Research opportunities may also include individual or collaborative research projects that result in conference presentations, or assisting with research club, literature reviews, data collection, and subject selection related to a faculty member's research endeavors. Exposure to research can provide valuable tools for future clinical and research practice.

How do I find out about faculty teaching and research interests?
You can contact the program directly. Another source is conducting a literature review on the topic of interest and learning who the authors are and where they are conducting research and teaching.

Where will I go for clinical externships? Will I have an opportunity to work with different populations and different settings?
Yes, you will be required to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to work with a variety of populations and disorders in various settings. Check with the academic program's clinic director to find out the range of student placements available through the academic program.

Are there distance education options?
Yes, some programs now offer distance education options that range from online courses to online degrees. Online courses and distance education learning have increased access to programs but it is not for everyone. It is recommended that prospective students inquire about the technology used and consider personal learning styles when planning their education.

Is financial aid available?
Financial aid is available for graduate education in CSD. Consult the university's financial aid office to learn more about financial aid offerings and the specific costs they cover such as tuition and housing. Ask the financial aid counselor or officer about obligations for receipt of funding (e.g., work study, assistantships), enrollment requirements, and funding availability (i.e., by semester, 12 months or multiple years).

Where are the graduates of the program employed?
One indicator of the value of a degree program is the placement of graduates of the program. Inquire about the types of positions and work settings where a program's graduates have secured employment in recent years. For example, do many graduates choose private practice? Perhaps many graduates go on to pursue a PhD which may suggest a research focus or perhaps many of the graduates work in schools suggesting an emphasis on child and adolescent language and school based issues. By evaluating your own career interests and learning about where graduates of a particular program work at least their first few years following graduation, you will find the academic program that best matches your personal goals.

Step 3: Learn about the application process

Do I need an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) to apply?
No, not necessarily. Many programs accept students without a CSD undergraduate degree. For non CSD majors, certain prerequisites may be required adding to the time-to-degree. Many audiologists and speech-language pathologists began their education with an undergraduate degree in a major other than communication sciences and disorders.

What are my chances of getting accepted?
Graduate programs seek to admit students who show promise for successfully completing graduate level studies in audiology or speech-language pathology. Typically, programs require a minimum 3.00 grade point average (GPA), Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, an essay and letters of recommendation. For this reason, it is important to do your best in undergraduate school and secure letters of recommendation from faculty who have taught you and can speak to your ability to succeed in graduate school. Including information on related work or volunteer experience may also be valuable.

Admission to graduate school is competitive but keep in mind that many programs must turn away well qualified students because the programs do not have the capacity to accept all qualified students. Ask the program director about the percentage of students recruited from the institution√Ę‚‚¨‚„Ęs undergraduate program and percentage of students recruited from other institutions. The admissions profile may guide you in identifying academic programs that are a good fit with your academic goals.

When should I apply and when will I hear if I am accepted?
Some programs conduct an annual application and admission protocol. Other programs offer rolling admission which means that applications are received and reviewed on an ongoing basis and admission and enrollment occur during each semester of the academic year. Prepare and submit your application well in advance (at least three months prior to the deadline). Have an objective person read your application. Do not submit an incomplete application or one that has errors.

It is important to also note that an earlier application deadline is required in order to be considered for financial assistance. For annual admissions, applications are typically due February 1st for financial assistance and March 1st for regular admission. Following the review process, students are notified of their admission in early spring.


What is an Audiologist? Strategies for Entry into Graduate Schools Thinking About a PhD in Audiology?
Thinking about a PhD? How do I apply What are career opportunities?
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