Programs In Speech-Language Pathology And Audiology

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Just as with other communications programs, programs in speech-language pathology and audiology can be housed in a number of different university departments with a number of different names and degrees conferred. Commonly, programs are called communication disorders, communicative disorders, communication science, speech communications, speech pathology, and speech-language and hearing pathology. The program name preferred by ASHA is communication sciences and disorders. Degrees conferred could be a Master of Science, Master of Arts, or Master of Education.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association certifies speech- language pathologists and audiologists who have met certain criteria. To become certified and awarded a certificate of clinical competence in speech- language pathology (CCC-SLP) or a certificate of clinical competence in audiology (CCC-A), or certificates in both areas, candidates must:

Earn a master s degree covering the requisite number of credit hours from an institution whose program is accredited by the Educational Standard Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Complete the requisite number of hours in a supervised clinical observation and a supervised clinical practicum. The practicum cannot be undertaken until sufficient coursework for such an experience has been completed.

Complete a clinical fellowship of at least thirty-six weeks of full-time professional experience or its part-time equivalent in a variety of settings.

The master s degree in speech pathology and audiology entails at least 350 hours of clinical contact with patients or clients with communication disorders.

Following the master s program, the final step towards certification is the successful completion of a clinical fellowship year. Often, the first nine months of your job working full-time can be considered as your clinical fellowship year. During that time, you would have a certified speech-language pathologist supervising your work. If you were working only half-time, it would take you longer to complete the clinical fellowship year.

The clinical fellowship gives you a chance to integrate all you have learned through coursework and the clinical practicum.

Bachelors-degree programs are available in communication disorders, and many have coursework designed to mesh with a master s program. However, a B.A. in speech-language pathology or communication disorders is not required to enter a masters program in speech-language pathology.

Because of the shortage of certified communication disorders specialists, some bachelor s-level pathologists do find work. But, the only setting in which they can be employed with just a bachelor s degree is within different public school systems in some states. And they must sign a contract promising to get their master s within four to seven years.

They are allowed to work toward the master s while they are employed, but that can be problematic. Most people working within the public schools are on duty during the times that graduate courses are offered. Some night courses are available, but in some states, the programs are not currently designed to accommodate the schedule of working students.

In addition to the coursework, you need between 350 and 375 contact hours in a practicumn experience, some of which must be acquired in several different settings working with different types of disorders and different age groups. If you are in the public schools, the logistics become very difficult.

Some employed B.A.-level pathologists take a sabbatical from their job in order to finish. Most find going straight for the master s degree without working to be the most efficient method.

ASHA publishes a handbook that specifies the exact requirements for professional certification. You can contact them at their specific address.

Currently, there are thirty-nine states that legally require individuals who engage in private practice or who work in non-public agencies to hold a license in speech-language pathology or audiology. Generally, the requirements are similar to those for ASHA certification. ASHA also maintains a list of all state licensing boards and of all accredited university programs in speech- language pathology and audiology.


Projections indicate that job openings will strip the supply of qualified candidates for the next ten years.

The following state departments of education reported experiencing critical shortages of speech-language pathologists and audiologists:
  • Alabama

  • Nebraska

  • Alaska

  • Nevada

  • Arizona

  • New Mexico

  • Delaware

  • New York

  • Florida

  • North Carolina

  • Idaho

  • North Dakota

  • Indiana

  • Oklahoma

  • Kentucky

  • South Carolina

  • Louisiana

  • South Dakota

  • Mississippi

  • Wyoming

  • Montana

Other states are also experiencing shortages, but at a lower percentage rate.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) reports chronic shortages in key hospital occupations, including speech-language pathologists. In 1991 one out of every ten speech-language pathologist position remained unfilled, a vacancy percentage that continues today.

The increased demand for speech-language pathologists and audiologists has multiple causes, one of which is related to the new insurance coverage for home health care. There are now companies that operate franchises in different parts of the country, hiring paramedical professionals-speech pathologists, audiologists, nurses, physical therapists-to provide health services to people in their homes. With the increase in insurance coverage there has been an increased market for those types of professionals.

Legislative recognition of the need for certified speech-language pathologists and audiologists in the public schools has also contributed to the shortage. The Individuals with Disability Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as others, prohibit employers and educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of handicap and to provide necessary and reasonable accommodations. In addition to wheelchair ramps that everyone is now familiar with, this also takes into account other considerations, such as decreasing noise levels in the area where a hearing-impaired person is working.

The laws also mandate that the personnel who provide services to children must be adequately and appropriately prepared in the area in which they provide these services. As school districts strive to comply with the law they will be hiring more and more speech, language, and hearing professionals.
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