Communication disorders are found in people who have difficulty hearing, speaking, or processing language. If you are interested in treating people suffering from these impairments, you would need a relevant degree and a license to work in the field. You will find both undergraduate and graduate degrees in communication disorders. Undergraduate degrees are normally considered pre-professional, because they aim to prepare students for further studies. The degrees in communication disorders primarily focus on areas such as basic disorders or impairments and different rehabilitation practices.
Communication Disorders Degrees
Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders
The bachelor’s degree in communication disorders focuses on areas such as physiology of speech and hearing, development disorders, and language acquisition. Most bachelors’ programs also include practicum, where students need to acquire practical experience by volunteering at a clinic. If you are applying to a bachelor’s degree, you would need to submit your standardized test scores and high school transcript. You may also need to write an admissions essay and submit letters of recommendation. Not all programs accept freshman applicants, so first freshman students need to apply at a college or university and after taking certain courses they can apply to the communication disorders department. Although, coursework may differ from one institute to another, some of the major courses offered in the program include phonetics, audiology, language disorders, speech and hearing mechanisms, and hearing rehabilitation.
Master’s Degree in Communication Disorders
There are two types of master’s degrees offered in communication disorders. One is the Master of Science, while the other is the Master of Arts in Communication Disorders. The Master of Science degree requires a thesis, while the other degree is a non-thesis program. These degrees allow students to select a clinical concentration. Some clinical concentrations are adult neurogenic speech disorders and cochlear implant habilitation. For admissions, you would need to submit your graduate standardized test scores and undergraduate transcripts. Most master’s degree programs admit applicants having a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders. Only a few programs admit applicants with a different bachelor’s degree, but they also require applicants to complete certain courses in communication disorders before starting the degree. Apart from classroom based instruction and lab work, students also complete a clinical practicum. The practicum usually lasts the entire duration of the degree; almost two years. Core courses include autism, neurogenic speech disorders, dysphagia, neuromotor disorders, and voice disorder evaluation.
Doctorate Degree in Communication Disorders
Doctoral programs in communication disorders are offered in different formats. The Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Disorders is a research focused program, which prepares students for academic careers. Although, this program also has a clinical component, but major focus is on research and analysis of issues related to human communication. If you are looking for clinical programs, you may opt for a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD) program or a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). Both of these doctoral programs are for students who plan on getting clinical positions in future. These programs take around four years to complete and also have a clinical externship. In order to get admission in the doctoral program, students need to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. They also need to submit their college level transcripts and graduate standardized test scores. Most programs also require applicants to submit letters of recommendation and their resume. Although, coursework may vary depending on the program, major courses offered include electrophysiology lab, speech perception, advanced acoustics, auditory and vestibular mechanisms, and audiologic research methods.
Online Communication Disorders Degree
Online programs are also offered in communication disorders. It is not very common to find online bachelors programs in the field; however, many online masters programs are offered for students who cannot afford to attend on-campus classes. Online programs in communication disorders are typically not 100% online; there is a certain portion of the degree that needs to be completed at a clinic or nearby hospital. It is important for students to select an accredited online program, as it can impact their education and career prospects. The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) accredits degree programs in the field. Students need to ensure that their degree program is accredited by CAA.
Salary and Career Outlook
Professionals who work in the field of communication disorders have a variety of roles and responsibilities. Some of their major tasks include diagnosing and treating patients who are unable to hear or speak clearly. Major areas in communication disorders include audiology, speech language pathology, and special education. Graduates may work in various settings such as hospitals, schools, child daycare facilities, nursing homes, home health care businesses, and outpatient care centers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the employment of audiologists is likely to grow at the rate of 34% between the years 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average growth of all occupations. Besides, BLS states that the median salary for audiologists as of May 2014 was $73,060.
Special Education Teachers
According to the BLS, the employment opportunities for special education teachers are likely to grow at 6% between the years 2012 and 2022. Teachers’ retirement is likely to increase the demand. Besides, there is a greater demand for special education teachers in urban areas. BLS states that the median annual salary for special education teachers in kindergartens was $54,570 in May 2014.
Speech Language Pathologists
The employment growth of speech language pathologists is likely to be 19% between the years 2012 and 2022, as stated by the BLS. It is much higher than the average growth rate of all occupations. One reason for this is the rise in the elderly population. Old people are at a greater risk of developing neurological disorders that can result in speech related impairments. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $71,550, as of May 2014.