American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Careers in Speech, Language, and Hearing Science

Communication Scientists: Making Discoveries That Make a Difference

Providing the research on which clinicians base their methodology, scientists in speech, language, and hearing

  • explore trends in communication sciences
  • develop strategies for expanding the knowledge base in their field
  • investigate the biological, physical, and physiological processes of communication
  • explore the impact of psychological, social, and other factors on communication disorders
  • develop evidence-based methods for diagnosing and treating individuals with speech, language, and hearing problems
  • collaborate with related professionals (such as engineers, physicians, dentists, and educators) to develop a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating individuals with speech, voice, language, and hearing problems

In addition, researchers may

  • prepare future professionals and scientists in colleges and universities
  • conduct research at or consult with universities, hospitals, government health agencies, and industries

As with audiologists and SLPs, research scientists are educated in their specific area of interest. However, while clinicians can practice with a master's degree or clinical doctorate, scientists must earn a research doctorate.

Your Work Environment

  • Colleges and universities
  • Research laboratories and institutes
  • State and federal government agencies
  • Private industry

The quality of your work environment depends on the revenue your facility generates. Facilities that produce more credible research generally have more revenue for equipment, laboratory facilities, and perhaps even salaries. Because the fields of audiology and SLP are expanding, so is related research. Chances are, if you develop a research plan and formulate it well, you'll find a funding source and laboratory setting.

What You'll Earn

Salaries of speech, language, and hearing scientists vary depending on experience, employment setting, and geographical location. Benefits-such as insurance, leave, and professional development-are usually very competitive.

How You'll Get Started

  • To become a speech, language, or hearing scientist, you should select undergraduate courses from a variety of scientific disciplines, including physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, linguistics, and psychology, as well as a program of study in the speech, language, and hearing sciences.
  • The next step is to obtain your graduate degree. Give careful thought when applying to doctoral programs, as your chosen program will determine contacts with other professionals in the field, including those with whom you will work on your doctoral dissertation-the basis of your future research.

An Elite Group

ASHA currently represents 166,739 audiologists, SLPs, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Fewer than 1% of ASHA members and affiliates identify research as their primary function.

An Even Brighter Future

There is a great need for scientists and college professors-especially those with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. With the growth of genetic and hereditary science, research scientists have much to look forward to, including

  • opportunities to examine causality and progression issues
  • exploration of new techniques to prevent, identify, assess, and rehabilitate speech, language, and hearing impairments
  • investigation of the neurobiological, neurophysiological, and physical processes underlying normal communication
  • research on cultural diversity in human communication
  • collaboration with clinical practitioners on multicenter, randomized behavioral and medical treatment protocols for disorders of speech, voice/swallowing, language, hearing, and balance
  • In addition, there are extreme shortages of speech, language, and hearing scientists and teacher-scholars throughout the country, especially in rural and inner‑city areas.

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