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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?

Thinking About a PhD in Audiology?

Frequently Asked Questions About Pursuing a PhD in Audiology

When thinking about pursuing a PhD, you are likely to have many important questions. These FAQs are some of the questions that have been raised at the annual "Thinking about a Ph.D.?"

PhD program here refers to research doctoral programs, not clinical doctoral programs (i.e., AuD programs, clinical Ph.D. programs). The research PhD program prepares a person for a career as a teacher, researcher, and scholar, which may or may not include a clinical component. The FAQs have been divided into four topics of interest. Click on each question to view the FAQs and answers within that topic.

Is a PhD for me?
Questions in this section relate to one's decision to pursue a PhD

Is a PhD for me?

Why would I want to get a PhD?

A PhD is the terminal degree in many fields, and completion of the PhD prepares individuals for careers as researchers, scholars, and teachers. Persons with a PhD in communication sciences and disorders can pursue academic/research careers in Schools and universities or in other facilities where research is a component of their responsibilities. Thus, when a person chooses to pursue a PhD, he or she is typically choosing to pursue a career in teaching, research, and other scholarly activities.

If you want to pursue a PhD to gain more knowledge in a particular area yet you expect to continue solely in a clinical career, a PhD may not be a wise career decision. The structure of a PhD degree program is centered on preparation of individuals for careers in research, teaching, and other scholarly activities. Thus, when practicing clinicians decide to pursue a PhD, they may appropriately view the degree as a career change, from a focus primarily or solely on clinical activities to a focus on teaching, research, and other scholarly activities.

For some academics, clinical teaching and clinical services are a component of their job, but other teaching, research, and scholarly activities are critical components of their professional activities.

  • For an academic, teaching can involve classroom teaching, clinical teaching, and research mentoring.
  • Research involves the generation of new knowledge in a process of posing questions and answering questions and publishing results.
  • Other scholarly activities involves a range of activities including writing book chapters that synthesize and analyze information in the field, writing textbooks for academic preparation of students, peer review of journal submissions, and presentation of continuing education.

What's the difference between a research PhD program and a clinical master's program or clinical AuD program?

The purpose of the master's programs in speech-language pathology and the clinical doctorate programs (AuD or clinical PhD) in audiology is to prepare knowledgeable, competent clinicians who will provide exemplary clinical services to children and adults with communication disorders. Clinicians apply knowledge for the benefit of patients.

In contrast, the purpose of the PhD degree is to prepare individuals for careers as teachers, scholars, and researchers. Teachers, scholars, and researchers convey knowledge to educate future clinicians and generate new knowledge by conducting research that addresses questions regarding the nature, diagnosis, and treatment of communication disorders.

The difference is in the outcome-clinical practice requires clinical preparation, whereas teaching and researching require academic and research preparation in conveying and generating knowledge.

What are the career opportunities once I complete the PhD?

The majority of people in communication sciences and disorders who have a PhD pursue a career within a college or university. Their responsibilities include teaching, research, and other scholarly activities. There are currently many opportunities for careers in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) within Schools and universities, and it is anticipated that openings in faculty positions in CSD will continue over the next decade and beyond.

The PhD Program Survey Results 2002 Executive Summary explains anticipated faculty shortages within CSD departments. Growth within the professions, the number of retiring faculty, and perhaps fewer doctoral students are factors that contribute to the anticipated shortages of PhD-prepared people in CSD.

Careers as teachers, scholars, and researchers can be pursued at many different types of universities and Schools. And the balance of teaching, research and other scholarly activities will vary across types of universities and Schools. In addition, PhD individuals may be employed at hospitals or clinics where clinical research is a part of the institution's mission. PhD audiologists may be employed in industry, for example, by hearing aid companies, for product research and development.

How long will it take me to finish a PhD program? What are the factors that could affect the time of completion?

Typically, you will hear that a PhD program, completed post-master's, will require at minimum 3 years. Few people finish in 3 years, but many complete their PhD program within 4 years. This time projection assumes full-time participation in the doctoral program across those 4 years. For persons who combine a master's degree and a PhD at the same institution, 5 years seems to be a typical length of time to completion. With the AuD degree being so new, it is currently unclear how long a PhD will take after the AuD or the length of time to complete a combined AuD/PhD (research degree).

It is difficult to predict with certainty the length of any individual's PhD program because completion of the program entails course work, a variety of research experiences, qualifying exams, and the dissertation. Different people take different lengths of time to successfully complete these experiences.

Many factors influence an individual's rate of progress through a PhD program. If you are a part-time doctoral student, your program will necessarily be longer. Family obligations may cause a person to move more slowly through a PhD program. Completion of research experiences, including the dissertation, is influenced by the time needed, for example, to recruit appropriate study participants, to prepare stimuli for the study, and to pilot test procedures. When speaking with current and former doctoral students, ask about their time line through the PhD program. Ask potential advisors how long their students have taken to complete the degree.

I have a family, moving is not a likely possibility, and there is no PhD program close to me.  Can I do a PhD through distance education?

The short answer to this question is no. A PhD program is an apprenticeship in teaching and in research. The course work of the PhD is only one component of the PhD experience. Daily interactions in the research lab and in the classroom require one to be present and active. Successful teachers and researchers agree that this apprenticeship would be impossible to achieve solely through distance education.

However, it is likely that some distance education experiences may be beneficial to an individual's PhD program, particularly if the distance education experiences cultivate knowledge and expertise that would be difficult to access within the home university. People with geographic limitations may wish to explore options of completing a PhD in a related field (if there is a possibility at a nearby university) with the intent of pursuing a career within a CSD department after the PhD.

Do I have to get a PhD in communication sciences and disorders? In what other fields might I get a PhD yet still pursue a career within communication sciences and disorders? What about getting an EdD?

Traditionally, one might think that to teach and conduct research in a communication sciences and disorders (CSD) department one needs a PhD in CSD. However, you will find that this is not the case. Many faculty members in CSD departments have a PhD from an interdisciplinary program or from a field related to CSD, such as psychology or linguistics. In fact, some persons may argue that for their particular area of interest, the interdisciplinary degree or degree in another related field provided the most beneficial training for the career teaching and researching in CSD.  Some schools or programs award an EdD rather than a PhD. An EdD is a sufficient degree so long as the program is focused on research training.

How is my time spent during a doctoral program? Do I still take classes?

The years of doctoral education are quite different from the years of undergraduate and clinical graduate training, and many students do not know what their doctoral program will be like. In a PhD program, the doctoral student works very closely with one faculty member-the advisor or mentor-and the doctoral program is guided by a committee of faculty. Indeed, you should think of a PhD program as studying with a particular faculty member.

Let's assume that a PhD is finished in about 4 years. The first 2 years will include taking courses, many of which will be courses from outside the CSD department. The choice of course work varies by student but always includes several research methods and statistical analysis courses. The remaining course work is chosen to establish the student's expertise in one or more content areas. In these first 2 years, the student will also participate in research training experiences. Typically, these experiences will involve working in the advisor's or mentor's research lab along with other graduate students, often on funded research projects, and also some independent research projects.

Once course work and required research experiences are completed, the student engages in a comprehensive examination process that typically involves oral and written examinations. The purpose of this process is to establish the student's proficiency and expertise in the area of study. The specific nature of this process varies across institutions. Once this examination process is completed successfully, the student advances to doctoral candidacy and completes the dissertation under the guidance of the mentor. The dissertation typically takes at least a year to complete.

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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?
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