Degrees in Communicative Disorders: Program Overviews

Oct 14, 2019

Degrees related to communicative disorders are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels and teach students about impairments in speaking, hearing or processing language and language systems. Get information about program requirements, curricula and continuing education.

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Essential Information

Communicative disorder bachelor's degree programs are nearly always pre-professional, meaning they are not terminal degree programs but instead prepare graduates to continue studying at the master's or doctoral level. Studies focus on basic disorders and rehabilitation practices.

Master's degree programs in communicative disorders are designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and experience needed to pursue clinical careers in speech-language pathology or audiology. Coursework allows for more in-depth studies into the neurological reasons for communicative disorders. The most common career path open to graduates of a master's degree program in communicative disorders is that of speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist. Nearly all states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed. A doctorate is required for those interested in becoming audiologists or teaching at the collegiate level. Doctoral students interested in this field may enroll in Ph.D. programs in communicative disorders, speech-language pathology or audiology; these programs often require an externship.

In addition to a high school diploma, ACT or SAT scores may be required for admission into bachelor's programs. Master's level programs require an undergraduate degree and GRE scores. Doctoral degree programs require applicants to hold a master's degree and have GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a resume.

Bachelor's Degree in Communicative Disorders

Coursework in bachelor's degree programs emphasizes language acquisition, development and disorders along with the physiology of speech and hearing. In addition to a high school transcript, other requirements for admission may include letters of recommendation and an admissions essay. Some programs do not accept freshman applicants. For these programs, individuals apply first to the college or university and then apply separately to the communicative disorder department at the end of their freshman or sophomore year. Most programs feature a practicum, in which degree candidates volunteer for credit at a speech or hearing clinic. Many of these programs feature a specific course rotation in which the core communication disorder courses are completed sequentially. Below are listed some sample core course titles.

  • Audiology
  • Aural rehabilitation
  • Language disorders
  • Phonetics
  • Speech and hearing mechanisms

Master's Degree in Communicative Disorders

These programs take two years to complete and are offered as either a Master of Science or a Master of Art in Communicative Disorders, with the former being a thesis program and the latter a non-thesis program. Most programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders. A smaller number of programs accept applications from individuals with undergraduate degrees in other majors. These applicants are required to complete supplementary communicative disorder coursework before being officially admitted to the program. In addition to the core communicative disorder coursework, degree candidates complete an off-campus clinical practicum. Below are listed some sample core course titles.

  • Neuromotor disorders
  • Dysphiagia
  • Voice disorder evaluation
  • Neurogenic speech disorders
  • Autism

Doctoral Degree in Communicative Disorders

These four-year degree programs are offered in a variety of formats. The Doctor of Philosophy in Communicative Disorders (Ph.D.) is a research-focused program designed to prepare individuals for academic careers. While there is a clinical component to this program, the main emphasis is on academic research and the scholarly analysis of human communication issues.

Clinical doctoral programs are offered as either a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD) or a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). These programs are designed to prepare individuals for clinical positions, such as audiologist, or for clinical-track positions within academia. The final year of these programs usually consists of a clinical externship.

A faculty interview is generally part of the application process. If admitted, the student will need to secure a faculty member to act as research mentor and to supervise the dissertation process. Exact coursework encountered in these programs will vary depending on the type of degree and the research or clinical focus of the degree candidate. Below are listed some sample course titles.

  • Auditory and vestibular mechanisms
  • Audiologic research methods
  • Advanced acoustics
  • Speech perception
  • Electrophysiology lab

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for speech-language pathologists are expected to increase by 27% between 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports the median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was $77,510 as of May 2018.

Graduates of a clinical communicative disorder doctoral program may find themselves eligible for senior clinician positions, such as audiologist. Audiologists may see a 16% increase in employment opportunities between 2018-2028, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for audiologists was $75,920 as of May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Bachelor's degree programs in communicative disorders are intended to provide the initial educational step towards becoming a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. However, in both of these professions individuals must have at least a master's degree before they can practice professionally. Most states also require some type of licensing process before individuals can offer communicative disorder services to the public.

The licensing process for speech-language pathologists varies between states but generally consists of completing an accredited graduate level communicative disorder degree program and passing a national examination. Other requirements may include a minimum number of hours of supervised clinical experience as well as a minimum number of hours of professional clinical experience.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) offers a professional certification program. The Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology is not a required credential. However, it does fulfill the licensure requirements for speech-language pathologists in some states.

All states require audiologists to be licensed. The exact process varies between states but usually includes completion of a graduate-level program and passing a competency exam. Continuing education credits are often required to maintain or renew the license.

Communicative disorders education programs are available at a range of degree levels and prepare students for careers in a variety of fields, including speech-language pathology and audiology. Bachelor's degree programs cover foundational topics through courses in speech disorders and language acquisition and development while graduate programs typically include advanced courses as well as clinical components.

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