As ASHA celebrates its 87th birthday, the association has hit another milestone—this year it surpasses 150,000 members. As of year-end 2011, ASHA gained 4,598 new members and now represents 150,079 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists—a 3.2% increase over 2010 (see chart [PDF]).
Not only is the number of members growing, the professions also are gaining recognition as desirable fields to enter. The demand for SLPs will increase 23% by 2020, and the demand for audiologists will increase 37% in that same time, according to new projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Additionally, audiology was cited as the sixth best career in 2012 in a recent report published by CareerCast.com, and speech-language pathology ranked 14th in U.S. News and World Report in its top 25 jobs in 2012.
"As the population continues to age and more people recognize and require the benefit of speech, language, and hearing specialists in their lives, there will be an increasing demand for ASHA members' expertise," Shelly S. Chabon, ASHA president, said. "It's ASHA's duty to maintain high standards and provide our members with the knowledge and resources to deliver top-notch interventions."
With this continued influx of members into the association, the face of the professions continues to evolve. Who is a typical member? Where do members work? How old are they? According to ASHA's 2011 membership survey and year-end counts, the answers to these questions are as diverse as ASHA members, affiliates, and associates themselves. Whether working in a school, health care setting, research, or private practice, the ASHA community is working hard to meet the speech, language, and hearing needs of millions of consumers. Come meet your professional colleagues.
The Big Picture
ASHA comprises two professions that share the same goal of effective communication. ASHA counts the majority of the audiologists and speech-language pathologists in the country within its membership.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 13,000 audiologists in the United States and 123,200 SLPs. A year later, in 2011, there were 12,844 ASHA-certified audiologists (up from 12,511 in 2001) and 133,621 ASHA-certified SLPs (up from 89,364 in 2001). It should be noted that ASHA's member count includes retirees and unemployed and self-employed certified members, whereas the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are derived from employer reports, which would not include these groups. The number of dual-certified members, however, dropped from 1,392 in 2001 to 1,172 in 2011, a drop of 15.8%.
"Given the educational requirements needed to meet the credentialing requirements to become dually certified, we would expect this downward trend to continue," said Vic C. Gladstone, former ASHA chief staff officer for audiology, of the drop in dually certified members. "Most dually certified individuals became so years ago, when the certification requirements for the two professions were less disparate than they are now."
A growing membership, of course, provides opportunity for more diversity, and ASHA is striving to move in that direction. In fact, a primary objective of ASHA's strategic plan is to increase the diversity and cultural competence of the membership. This objective includes focusing on males, underrepresented ethnic and racial populations, and bilingual service providers. It also includes providing members with information and resources to support cultural competence. In the survey, members used a five-point scale (from "not at all qualified" to "very qualified") to rate how qualified they believe they are to provide culturally appropriate services. More than a third (38%) of audiologists and 43.7% of SLPs rated themselves as a 3, the middle score.
Ethnicity and Race. Although the majority of members identify themselves as non-Hispanic or Latino (ethnicity) and white (race), the numbers may be changing. In 2011, 3.1% of audiologists, 4.5% of SLPs, and 4% of those with dual certification indicated they were of Hispanic or Latino origin. The majority of audiologists, SLPs, and those with dual certification (92.4%, 92.8%, and 90.8%, respectfully) indicated they were white.
However, those numbers may be changing as the newest wave of ASHA members—those joining within the last five years—were somewhat more likely to indicate they were of Hispanic or Latino descent (7.2%) and less likely to indicate they were white (90.4%). In contrast, people of Hispanic origin accounted for 14.8% of the total civilian labor force in 2010; this figure is expected to increase to 18.6% by 2020 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2012). People who are white accounted for 81.3% of the total civilian labor force in 2010, a figure expected to decline to 79.4% by 2020.
Gender. ASHA also continues to strive for gender diversification. The percentage of men in both professions has dropped slightly since 2001. As of year-end 2011, males made up 17.4% of audiologists, 4% of SLPs, and 26.2% of those with dual certification, compared with 19.7%, 4.9%, and 31.7%, respectively, from 10 years ago.
"There continues to be a decline in the number of men in the professions, but data ASHA compiled recently show specific areas of potential for more targeted recruitment," said Vicki Deal-Williams, ASHA chief staff officer for multicultural affairs. "We need to add more men to the ranks if we are to ensure a diversity of perspectives."
Age. Another demographic to consider is age—and according to survey results, both professions span several generations. In 2011, the median age of audiologists was 47 years, up from 43 years in 2001; the median age of SLPs was 43 years, down slightly from 44 years in 2001; and the median age of members with dual certification was 60 years, up from 54 years in 2001. The overall median age of these combined groups was 44 years in 2011, the same as in 2001 (see chart [PDF]).
Location. Although much has changed in the past 10 years, location isn't one of them. As was true 10 years ago, many ASHA members who live in the United States live in the South. In 2011, 34.8% of audiologists, 35.7% of SLPs, and 36.2% of those with dual certification lived in the South. The West had the lowest percentage of audiologists and SLPs (19.6% and 17.3%, respectively), and those with dual certification were least likely to live in the Midwest (18.8%). Most of ASHA's newest associates—support personnel in audiology and speech-language pathology—live in Texas (36.4%) and California (24.7%). In 2011, nearly 2% of ASHA's members and affiliates lived in a U.S. territory or foreign country, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand.
Where Do We Work?
In spite of the high unemployment rate for the United States as a whole over the past few years, the communication sciences and disorders professions continue to weather the recession relatively well. As of year-end 2011, 71.6% of ASHA's membership and affiliation were employed full-time; 20.4% were employed part-time. Only 1.1% were unemployed and seeking employment, well below the January 2012 national unemployment rate of 8.3% (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
Not only are ASHA members highly employed, they appear to be a happily employed bunch. According to the survey results, 90.8% of SLPs and 86.7% of audiologists reported that they are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their choice of career (see "Posted Notes"). They further indicated that compensation, home/work balance, and meaningfulness of the job were the most important factors for accepting or staying in a job.
Although SLPs and audiologists work in health care and school settings, audiologists dominantly gravitated to the health care settings, with many of the SLPs in educational settings.
Audiologists. In 2011, nearly three-quarters of audiologists (72.5%) were employed in health care settings, including 47.1% in nonresidential health care facilities (such as private physicians' or audiologists' offices), 24.3% in hospitals, and 1.1% in residential health care facilities (such as skilled nursing facilities). Nearly one-fifth (16.2%) were employed in educational settings, including 8.6% in schools and 7.6% in colleges and universities. More than one-quarter (27.5%) were employed full- or part-time in private practice, a slight increase over the past few years (see chart [PDF]).
Speech-Language Pathologists. More than half (57.1%) of SLPs were employed in educational settings, including 54% in schools and 3.1% in colleges and universities. An additional 37.9% were employed in health care settings, including 15.6% in nonresidential health care facilities, 12.5% in hospitals, and 9.8% in residential health care facilities. Nearly one-fifth (17.7%) were employed full- or part-time in private practice, a rate somewhat higher than the rates of the past few years (see chart [PDF]).
What Do We Do?
Within the professions, ASHA members wear many hats, some as educators, some as clinicians, others as researchers. The landscape of the membership's primary roles hasn't changed much since 2001. In 2011, most audiologists (77.9%) reported their primary work role as clinical service provider. About one-tenth (8.9%) held an administrative position (e.g., executive officer, department chair, or supervisor). A small percentage (5.2%) held a teaching position (0.6% were special education teachers and 4.6% were college or university professors), 2.6% were consultants, and 1.7% were researchers.
Most SLPs (78.7%) indicated they were clinical service providers. About one-tenth (9.3%) held a teaching position (7.3% were special education teachers and 2% were college or university professors); 7.3% held an administrative position. Only 1.7% were consultants and less than 1% were researchers.
Most individuals with dual certification (65%) reported their primary work role as clinical service provider. About one-tenth (13.0%) held a teaching position (3.8% were special education teachers and 9.2% were college or university professors); 12.2% held an administrative position. Only 6% were consultants and 1.4% were researchers.
How Do We Work?
Based on the work environment, location, and consumer base, ASHA members' work can be collaborative and innovative (see Whole Patient, Whole Team). Collaborative practice (defined as "multiple workers from different professions collaborating to provide integrated services in an educational or health environment") is a reality of most ASHA members' workdays. The majority—73.8% of SLPs and 55.1% of audiologists—reported that they've had "mostly good experiences" with collaborative practice. For SLPs, percentages for "mostly good experiences" were highest in residential health care facilities (82%). For audiologists, the percentages were highest in the schools (70.9%). For both professions, the biggest barrier to collaborative practice was scheduling.
A less common, but growing reality, of the professions is telepractice—defined as "the application of telecommunications technology to the delivery of professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client, or clinician to clinician, for assessment, intervention and/or consultation."
For SLPs who delivered services via telepractice, the client population they were most likely to serve was children in their home. For audiologists, it was adults in the military or via the Veterans Administration. Although a very small percentage of members (2.3% of SLPs and 5.4% of audiologists) reported providing services via telepractice, as technology matures and the needs increase, this will remain an area to continue to monitor.
Why Does This Matter?
In the future, the need for effective human communication will continue to grow. Documenting who members are, where they work, and what roles they play can affect how consumers access services, future educational and health care policies, and the professions' future directions.
"Given this year's results, ASHA members should be proud of the group they represent," said Arlene Pietranton, ASHA executive director. "No matter where we live, what role we play, or what background we come from, we all share the common goal of promoting effective communication for all."