Online bachelor's degree programs in communicative disorders are rare, but online master's degree programs in this field are easier to find. Both options require students to complete some in-person clinical experience such as a practicum, internship or externship. Graduates may also wish to pursue state licensing after obtaining their degrees.
The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), part of the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, regulates all degree programs in this field. Prospective students should verify that any program they consider is accredited by the CAA before they apply.
Bachelor's Degree in Communicative Disorders
Designed as a pre-professional degree program, an online bachelor's-level communicative disorders curriculum provides instruction in both the normal and disordered processes of language, speech and hearing. Study topics include speech and language assessment, neuroscience of communication, phonetics, language development and common communicative disorders.
Program Information and Requirements
An online bachelor's degree program in communicative disorders requires approximately 128 credit hours of coursework that is comprised of general education credits, elective courses and core content within the communicative disorders major. In addition to online class instruction, students are typically expected to complete a set number of practicum hours in order to gain clinical experience. Practicum hours can be completed under the direct supervision of a licensed speech-pathologist within a clinical setting local to a student's residence with faculty approval. Students can usually expect to complete this type of degree program within four years of full-time study.
Online courses are typically delivered through virtual learning software, such as Blackboard. Students are asked to access course materials and submit assignments online via Blackboard posts or email communications. Class discussions are conducted through live chat and online bulletin boards. Students typically have access to online library services in order to support their research needs.
Online coursework focuses on the concepts and principles relevant to the causes and treatment of communication disorders. Students acquire basic knowledge in key areas related to the assessment and treatment of disorders related to language, swallowing, fluency, articulation, hearing and pitch.
Speech and Language Development
Students study the language learning process in children. Topics include analysis of the morphological, semantic, pragmatic and syntactic aspects of speech development. Course materials provide an overview of current research and theory in speech and language acquisition.
This online course introduces students to the causes, treatment and characteristics of articulation disorders. Articulation disorders in both children and adults are discussed.
Hearing/Vestibular Anatomy and Physiology
Instruction covers the anatomy and physiology of the vestibular and auditory systems. Acoustics of these systems are also covered. Basic concepts in psychoacoustics and the perceptual correlates of audition are introduced.
Master's Degree in Communication Disorders
An online graduate program in this field is designed to prepare individuals for professional practice as speech-language pathologists in hospitals, clinics, nursing facilities and schools. The communication disorders curriculum covers the development, physiology and disorders of speech, language and swallowing. Students acquire in-depth knowledge of the physiological aspects of communication, communication disorders and acoustic principles. Prerequisite courses for graduate-level programs include speech and language development, phonetics, audiology, speech anatomy and basic sciences, such as biology, college math and a physical science.
Program Information and Requirements
An online master's degree in communication disorders requires approximately 49 credit hours of coursework accompanied by hands-on clinical experiences through internship or externship periods. Although the majority of coursework can be completed entirely online, students may need to visit campus in order to complete the clinical internship requirement.
Usually offered during the summer months, the clinical internship lasts approximately five weeks and provides students with the opportunity to work with clients experiencing both complex and acute communication disorders. Upon completion of the clinical internship, students are then required to arrange three externship opportunities that can be completed in facilities local to the student's residence.
Course materials are accessed through virtual learning software, such as Blackboard and Adobe Connect Pro. Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions via interactive online chat and online discussion boards. In addition to common computer requirements, such as high-speed Internet and access to email, technical requirements may also include Adobe Flash Player, a microphone and a webcam in order to view streaming video and participate in online chat sessions.
Online coursework required for an online master's degree in communication disorders provides students with knowledge and skills in a variety of communication sciences and disorders. Students learn how to evaluate, diagnose and treat communicative disorders.
Students learn diagnosis and remediation techniques for a variety of voice disorders in adults and children. Study topics include the rehabilitation of the laryngectomy using esophageal speech, electrolarynx and other voice substitutes.
Research Methodology in Communication Disorders and Sciences
This course explores the empirical research designs and interpretation techniques used in the field of speech-language pathology and audiology. Students become familiar with the various statistical analysis methods used to determine research outcomes and find information relevant to clinical practice.
Students study the dysphagia diagnosis, including the characteristics, intervention protocols and treatment techniques for this disorder. Course content includes case studies and clinical observations of patients with the disorder to better prepare students for clinical practice.
Students with a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders may pursue employment as Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs). Although requirements vary, some states require SLPAs to obtain licensure through their state's regulation and licensing board. In a 2009 survey conducted by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 42% of school-based and 32% of health-care-based ASHA certified speech-language pathologists stated that their facility employed at least one SLPA. (www.asha.org).
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in communicative disorders may want to consider additional education, such as a graduate degree program in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most positions within the field of speech-language pathology require at least a master's degree (www.bls.gov).
Graduates from an online master's degree program in communication disorders can pursue job opportunities as speech-language pathologists in a variety of clinical and educational settings, such as public schools, home health care agencies, community service organizations and other medical practices. According to the BLS, elementary and secondary schools provide the highest level of employment opportunities for this occupation.
As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the annual median wage for speech-language pathologists was $73,410. Employment opportunities within the field are expected to be favorable, as the BLS projected employment of speech-language pathologists to grow by 21% between 2014 and 2024.
Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, as of 2012, nearly all states regulated the licensure of speech-language pathologists. Common licensure requirements include a master's degree from an accredited college, 300-375 hours of supervised clinical experience, nine months of professional clinical experience and a passing score on the national speech-language pathology certification exam.
In order to maintain licensure, most states require professionals to complete continuing education requirements in order to stay up-to-date with advancements in the field. For specific licensing requirements, candidates should check with their state's regulatory board. Licensing and certification requirements may differ for pathologists wishing to practice within a school setting.
Online bachelor's and master's degree programs in communication disorders provide students with knowledge of speech development, anatomy, and the assessment and treatment of speech disorders. Graduates of a master's degree program may become licensed-speech language pathologists.