While a master's degree is the minimum educational requirement for professional audiologists, students may complete associate's degree programs in hearing instrument science or communication disorders, both of which can lead to entry-level work in the audiology field. In order to enroll in one of these two-year programs, students are required to have a high school degree or equivalent, and they may need to pass a placement test.
Students enrolled in an associate's degree program in hearing instrument science will study aural rehabilitation and audiometry through lecture-based classes, lab work and clinical experiences. Graduates are prepared for careers as hearing aid specialists and hearing instrument technicians.
In a communication disorders associate's degree program, students will study language development, physiological acoustics, and often American Sign Language. Clinical experiences are typically required. Graduates are prepared for licensure and subsequent employment as speech-language pathology assistants.
Associate's Degree in Hearing Instrument Science
Students enrolled in associate's degree programs in instrument science study the anatomy and physiology of the ear, the common causes of hearing loss, and the components of hearing instruments. Students may also learn to fit or adjust hearing aids, measure the ear, and perform hearing assessments. Some of these skills may be acquired as part of a hands-on internship experience that supplements lecture and lab work. Common course topics in this program include:
- Hearing aids
- Aural rehabilitation
- Hearing aid evaluation
- Hearing assessment
- Hearing and auditory disorders
Associate's Degree in Communication Disorders
Associate's degree programs in communication disorders are designed for students who want to pursue careers in speech-language pathology. The standard curriculum provides training in American Sign Language (ASL), language development and speech disorders. Students may also have the opportunity to get hands-on experience at an on-campus hearing clinic. Some of the language- and human anatomy-related courses that students might take include:
- Communication disorders
- Healthcare communications
- Physiological acoustics
- Language development
- Biological acoustics
Popular Career Options
Graduates of hearing instrument specialist associate's degree programs typically find entry-level jobs in hospitals, private practices and outpatient care centers. Some job titles include:
- Hearing aid specialist
- Hearing aid fitter
- Hearing instrument technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hearing aid specialists earned a median annual income of $52,770 in May 2018. Job growth for these professionals is expected to be much faster than average. Hearing aid specialists in general are projected to see 16% employment growth from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations.
Individuals holding associate's degrees in communication disorders can find jobs as speech-language pathology assistants. According to 2019 PayScale.com figures, the median yearly salary for these professionals was $40,434. Employment opportunities are expected to increase by 10 to 14 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the national average, the Occupational Information Network reported.
Licensing and Continuing Education Information
In many states, speech-language pathology assistants must meet licensing requirements. Applicants need to have completed a state-approved associate's degree program and acquired anywhere between 70 and 100 hours of field experience. Some states also require applicants to complete a supervised practice component.
Graduates of associate's degree programs in audiology-related fields may pursue bachelor's degrees in audiology, speech-language pathology, or communication disorders. These programs prepare students for graduate-level study through coursework in articulation and fluency disorders, aural rehabilitation, and language processing. In order to become a professional audiologist, students need either a master's or a doctoral degree.
In conclusion, an associate's degree in an audiology-related field prepares students for an entry-level job in the field. For higher level positions, they may need to pursue a state-mandated license or an advanced degree in audiology.