Understanding the cause of communication disorders is a vital aspect of developing effective treatment and therapy for those who suffer from this issue. While medical researchers may be involved in the causes of these disorders, audiologists work with individuals who are affected by balance and hearing issues, and speech-language pathologists treat individuals who have difficulty producing clear speech.
Career Information at a Glance
Communication disorders science professionals study and treat speech and hearing disorders. Speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat communication problems related to speech rhythm, language production or comprehension. Audiologists diagnose and treat individuals with hearing and balance problems due to ear defects. Communication disorders scientists lay the scientific groundwork for clinical practice.
|Speech-Language Pathologists||Audiologists||Medical Researchers (including Communication Disorders researchers)|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree program in communication disorders science with an emphasis on speech-language pathology||Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree (in 18 states)||Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree|
|Other Requirements||Master's degree is required in most states, as well as a license and clinical experience||Licensure; good communication skills and patience||Design experiments, write research proposals, teach entry-level students|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||21%||29%||8%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$76,900||$77,420||$93,730|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Aspiring speech-language pathologists typically complete a bachelor's degree program in communication disorders science with an emphasis on speech-language pathology. Undergraduate students study both normal and disordered speech and language.
Graduates of bachelor's programs may be eligible to practice as assistants to speech-language pathologists in some states; however, a graduate degree is required in most states. Additional licensure and certification is often required as well. Students are also usually required to participate in a clinical practicum after completing prerequisites.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nearly every state requires licenses for speech-language pathologists. Licensing requirements vary by state.
Speech-language pathologists use specialized instruments and testing methods to diagnose a patient's speech disorder. They treat patients with disorders in swallowing, memory, attention, stuttering, pitch or voice. They help patients speak clearer by increasing muscle strength and improving enunciation. For patients who cannot vocalize, they teach alternative communication methods like sign language. Everyday tasks include developing individualized treatment plans and maintaining patient records.
In 2015, the BLS reported that the mean annual wage for this communication disorders science position was $76,900. They also reported an expected employment growth of 21% from 2014 to 2024.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Audiology and Hearing Sciences
- Speech-Language Pathology
Aspiring audiologists need good communication skills and patience. The most common college major for this position is communication disorders science. Students are trained in normal communication processes and communication disorders. Some programs offer a specialization in audiology.
All states regulate the practice of audiology and require licensure. According to the BLS, a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree is required to obtain licensure in 18 states. Prospective AuD students should search for programs accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Council on Academic Accreditation.
Audiologists use audiometers, computers and other testing devices to measure the extent of a patient's hearing loss and to determine its impact on the patient's quality of life. They diagnose and treat balance disorders caused by ear canal problems through examinations and cleanings. They fit patients with equipment like hearing aids, cochlear implants, large area amplification systems or alerting devices.
In 2015, the BLS reported that this type of communication disorders science professional earned a mean annual wage of $77,420. They estimated that employment would grow 29% from 2014 to 2024.
Communication Disorders Science Researchers
A Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree is required to work as a research scientist. Doctoral candidates work under a faculty member conducting research in an area related to the candidate's work. Candidates take seminar courses, conduct research projects, write analytic papers, teach undergraduate courses and write and defend a dissertation.
Communication disorder science researchers develop the scientific principles which form the basis of clinical practice. They investigate the biological and physiological processes underlying normal communication. They design experiments and write research proposals to get funding from the government, hospitals and private labs. They collaborate with engineers, doctors and teachers to develop therapeutic and diagnostic approaches. In universities, researchers teach entry-level students.
In 2010, ASHA reported that less than one percent of its approximately 140,000 members were researchers. However, since the communication disorders field is expanding, they estimated that research opportunities would also grow to keep pace. According to the BLS, medical scientists, such as those who might conduct research into communication disorders, earned a mean annual wage of $93,730 in 2015.
Most states require speech-language pathologists to have a master's degree in their field, as well as clinical experience and a license. Audiologists and communication disorder science researchers are required to have a Doctor of Audiology degree. Those who decide to work as audiologists will also need a state license.