October 14, 2008 Feature

Emerging Models of AuD-to-PhD Education

After more than 50 years of evolution, the audiology profession has made the transition to doctoral-level entry for clinical practice. Three enrollment models attempt to bridge AuD-to-PhD education—sequential, simultaneous, and dual-track programs.

In the sequential model, perhaps the most traditional, students complete the requirements for one degree then move on to the other degree program. Simultaneous study involves overlapping enrollment in coursework for both degrees at some point along the educational continuum. The overlap may be associated with a specific point in the curriculum, such as beginning the third year of the AuD program. In contrast, dual-degree programs admit and enroll students for the purpose of pursuing both degrees from the beginning of the graduate education program. A few programs offer more than one model.

Of 49 research doctoral-degree programs in audiology and hearing science, 42 offer both the entry-level clinical doctorate and the research doctorate in audiology or hearing science. Of the 42 programs that offer both degrees, 19 offer some form of simultaneous enrollment for pursuing both the AuD and PhD degrees, and 23 continue to offer a more traditional sequence—completion of the AuD prior to enrolling in PhD study. Three programs offer or plan to offer dual-degree enrollment. According to a telephone survey of all audiology PhD programs conducted in January and February 2008 by ASHA's Academic Affairs unit, 32 AuD degree-holders currently are enrolled in PhD programs.

Models of PhD Education

Several models of PhD education are in place around the country, including the teaching, research-lab, hybrid, and mentor (Cambridge) models. Large research universities generally follow either the Cambridge or research-lab model, requiring PhD applicants to identify and affiliate with a research mentor or lab within the university. Smaller universities might focus more on teacher education or adopt a hybrid approach of research and teaching co-emphasis. Four programs discussed here illustrate the variety of approaches to AuD-to-PhD education.

University of Florida

In designing its AuD-to-PhD program, the University of Florida (UF) considered how to mesh two doctoral programs that have different curricula and serve distinct goals. One program prepares graduates for audiologic practice and the other prepares independent researchers. With the exception of limited electives, the 125-credit-hour AuD curriculum is uniform for all students. The 90-credit-hour PhD curriculum, in contrast, is highly individualized with a variety of courses and research rotations with faculty mentoring.

Despite these differences, AuD coursework often provides an excellent start for meeting the requirements of the PhD program. For example, three courses in the AuD program— Introduction to Graduate Research, Statistics for Social/Behavioral Sciences, and Audiology Research Project—provide a solid basis for the AuD-to-PhD student to pursue more advanced education in research design, statistical analysis and modeling, and grant-writing. Students generally apply for admission to the AuD/PhD program during their second year of the AuD and begin the blended curriculum during their third or fourth year. Regular mentoring meetings through this stage monitor the student's progress and address any concerns.

UF awarded its first AuD degree in 2000. To date eight students have entered the combined AuD/PhD program. Two have completed both degrees, three have earned the AuD and are working on the PhD, and three are still working on requirements for both degrees. The mean length of time between completion of the AuD and passing qualifying exams is 16 months. It is too early to calculate a "typical" duration for the combined program, but clearly variability arises within the dissertation phase. It also is difficult to draw conclusions about placement, but both graduates are employed in university or research settings, a trend expected to continue.

Despite some predictions that the AuD degree would drain PhD applicants, the AuD program has enhanced PhD recruiting at UF. The number of audiology PhD students has risen since the AuD program was launched.

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University uses a hybrid approach, but with an emphasis on research rather than on teaching experience. Most PhD applicants affiliate with a prospective mentor as part of the application process; alternatively, an applicant may identify an area of focus in the Gallaudet research network. AuD students who complete a research project or thesis are encouraged to continue that research theme as a dissertation topic. This innovation builds on an applicant's expertise, enabling a maximum fit with a mentor or lab. AuD students interested in pursuing the PhD may complete the statistics and research methods/design courses prior to being matriculated as PhD students, further streamlining the doctorate timeline.

Five post-AuD students have enrolled in Gallaudet's PhD program, with one graduating in 2008 and the others on track to graduate in 2009. Additionally, four new PhD students enrolled in fall 2008, including two post-AuD students and two post-master's degree students who hold the CCC-A and have 10 years of experience. One AuD/PhD graduate entered the AuD program in fall 2000, completed the AuD in 2004, entered the new PhD program that same year, and completed the degree in 2006 as the first and only graduate of both programs. She was promptly hired by Gallaudet as an assistant professor.

Recruitment and scheduling are the biggest challenges faced by administrators of the PhD program. Convincing AuD students to continue with the PhD is difficult because of the demanding schedule—in some cases, long days of clinic are followed by evening classes. In addition, a research focus should be identified during the AuD that can be applied to development of a dissertation. This identification allows students to complete the PhD program in two years—a reasonable time commitment for those who enter the program after the AuD.

James Madison University

James Madison University (JMU) has implemented a flexible model for initiating PhD education that provides multiple entry points to students considering advanced research training. This flexibility allows the PhD program to accommodate more students and reduce the time to degree.

JMU encourages applications to the PhD program at any point in a student's education. At the baccalaureate level, students may apply for either a PhD or for the dual AuD/PhD program. AuD students have the option of moving to the dual AuD/PhD program if they decide to seek research credentials early in their AuD education or they may apply for the PhD post-AuD. A traditional track is available for practitioners who have earned a master's degree. The dual AuD/PhD track was approved in spring 2007 and implemented the following semester. The first graduate is expected to complete her degree in 2009.

JMU has had some success overcoming the major hurdle to implementing the AuD/PhD track—smoothly combining the unique requirements for the two degree programs. The challenges have included:

  • Integrating research experience early enough so that the PhD requirements are not just "tacked on" to the end of the AuD
  • Coordinating the AuD and PhD dissertations to provide an articulated progression in the student's research area
  • Coordination of equitable, reasonable, and competitive funding for AuD, PhD, and dual AuD/PhD students, especially as they transition from or through one degree track to another
  • Satisfying in letter and intent three requirements: the regional accrediting body; Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology; and institutional policies, thereby avoiding the perception that innovative dual-degree programs constitute a "watering down" of one degree or both

University of Kansas

In addition to separate PhD and AuD programs in audiology, the University of Kansas initiated a joint AuD/PhD track this fall. The dual-degree program was designed to make the process of moving from AuD to PhD easier to complete within a six-year period.

Students may choose to apply to the AuD/PhD track as they begin their graduate education, or apply later to make the transition. Before the dual-degree track was in place, AuD and PhD students could complete both degrees sequentially; however, this schedule required more than six years of study.

The current dual-degree track leverages the overlap in the AuD and PhD curricula, which include virtually the same core courses. Students following the combined track also can choose electives and other courses for one degree that will meet requirements for the second degree. In addition, AuD students' required research projects can be designed to provide pilot data for later dissertation study. Likewise, some of the clinical hours required for the AuD may be obtained during completion of a PhD study that involves administration of clinical tests to a patient population.

Students in the dual-degree program can complete the requirements for the AuD before taking additional research-related coursework prior to completing the dissertation. An additional 30 graduate credits—research/correlative area courses and dissertation hours—are required beyond completion of the minimum hours needed for the AuD. The program requires a minimum of 120 graduate hours to complete the combined track.

Future Directions

AuD/PhD education models that facilitate students' completion of both degrees in a reasonable time period may encourage more AuD students to pursue the PhD. Before the dual-degree tracks were established, students typically had to complete one set of degree requirements before enrolling in the second doctoral program. Completion of the second degree usually took more than two additional years to complete. Finally, most students sought employment in audiology after completing one degree and could afford to enroll only part-time for the second degree. An important feature of the dual-degree program tracks is that they take advantage of the extensive overlap in AuD and PhD curricula.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders' F30 pre-doctoral fellowship program—previously reserved for MD/PhD students—is now open to students enrolled in integrated AuD/PhD programs of study. It provides up to six years of support to eligible students over the clinical and research phases of their dual-degree doctoral program.

Questions remain about the dual-degree track approach:

  • Will these new models produce PhD graduates sufficiently prepared to initiate independent lines of research?
  • Will post-doctoral fellowships become the norm to allow more time for AuD/PhD graduates to strengthen research preparation in order to ensure success on a five-year faculty tenure track?
  • Is there a downside to completing both degrees at the same university program? Historically students have been encouraged to pursue their master's and doctorate degrees at different institutions to maximize exposure to different theoretical, research, and teaching approaches.
  • Do opportunities for remote communication and collaboration sufficiently broaden exposure to multiple perspectives to mitigate any concerns about earning multiple degrees at one institution?

The future of our discipline is intimately tied to its scientific foundations. With insufficient enrollment in PhD programs in audiology and speech and hearing science, graduate programs in audiology need to develop innovative approaches for attracting students to consider research careers.

Incorporating research experiences into the AuD program will help move toward that goal; it will prepare scientifically oriented AuD clinicians for and foster student interest in pursuing PhD degrees and faculty-researcher careers.

As more AuD students become exposed to the research process through the AuD curricula, we expect more will also become interested in completing a PhD. This prediction is bolstered by the growing job market for basic and clinical scientists in our discipline created by the current and anticipated shortage of PhD-level faculty in our universities and other research institutions.

The following individuals contributed to this article about their respective schools: Scott Griffiths, PhD, CCC-A, sgriff@csd.ufl.edu; R. Steven Ackley, PhD, CCC-A, robert.ackley@gallaudet.edu, and James J. Mahshie, PhD, CCC-SLP, jjmahshie@gmail.com, Gallaudet University; Dan C. Halling, PhD, CCC-A, hallindc@jmu.edu.

John Ferraro, PhD, University of Kansas Medical Center, can be reached at jferraro@kumc.edu.

Loretta Nunez, AuD, CCC-A/SLP, director of academic affairs, can be reached at lnunez@asha.org.

cite as: Ferraro, J.  & Nunez, L. (2008, October 14). Emerging Models of AuD-to-PhD Education. The ASHA Leader.

Student Perspectives

Sherri L. Smith, AuD (2001), PhD (2003), University of Florida; research audiologist, James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, Mountain Home, Tenn.

"I wanted both clinical (AuD) and research (PhD) expertise, so both degrees were mandatory. My current position involves 20% clinic and 80% research. If I did it over again, I would work in a research laboratory a couple of years between the AuD and PhD programs and would pursue the degrees at different universities. The former would have prepared me to maximize my PhD program and the latter would have provided more diverse research experiences."

Chizuko Tamaki, AuD (2004), PhD (2006), Gallaudet University; assistant professor, Gallaudet University

"I decided to pursue a PhD degree during the fourth year of my AuD program. I knew the faculty at Gallaudet and was confident I could work successfully with my advisors. Having learned to live with little money and time during the preceding eight years, I could devote enough resources to what seemed like two full-time jobs. The PhD has afforded me my current position as a faculty member in an AuD program; the AuD has enabled me to communicate clinical relevance of what I teach and the excitement of being an audiologist."

Ashlee Martz, BA (2007), graduate student, AuD/PhD dual-degree track, University of Kansas"

I’m excited to be one of the first students to enroll in the new AuD/PhD track at the University of Kansas. I believe that all research is more relevant when it is clinically driven. By participating in a dual doctoral program, students are exposed to both the clinical and the research specialties in the field of audiology. Even though scheduling can be complicated, the inconvenience is easily overshadowed by the opportunity to become a more well-rounded and attentive researcher." 


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