View PDF Version of This Document View PDF Version of This Document

Issues in Ethics

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Practice Policy

Use of Graduate Degrees by Members and Certificate Holders

Board of Ethics

About this Document

This statement is a revision of Use of Graduate Degrees by Members and Certificate Holders (2005). It has been updated to make any references to the Code of Ethics consistent with the Code of Ethics as revised in 2010. The Board of Ethics reviews Issues in Ethics statements periodically to ensure that they meet the needs of the professions and are consistent with ASHA policies.

Issues in Ethics Statements: Definition

From time to time, the Board of Ethics determines that members and certificate holders can benefit from additional analysis and instruction concerning a specific issue of ethical conduct. Issues in Ethics statements are intended to heighten sensitivity and increase awareness. They are illustrative of the Code of Ethics and intended to promote thoughtful consideration of ethical issues. They may assist members and certificate holders in engaging in self-guided ethical decision making. These statements do not absolutely prohibit or require specified activity. The facts and circumstances surrounding a matter of concern will determine whether the activity is ethical.

Return to Top


This Issues in Ethics Statement is for the guidance of ASHA members and certificate holders concerning the use of graduate degrees from unaccredited institutions, the use of graduate degrees in disciplines other than communication disorders, and the use of the title “Doctor” when advertising for services.

Principle of Ethics III, Rule A, states that “Individuals shall not misrepresent their credentials, competence, education, training, experience, or scholarly or research contributions.”

Principle of Ethics III, Rule G, states that “Individuals' statements to the public when advertising, announcing, and marketing their professional services; reporting research results; and promoting products shall adhere to professional standards and shall not contain misrepresentations.”

Return to Top


When members or certificate holders use the graduate degree in connection with any aspect of the professions of speech-language pathology, audiology, or the speech, language, and hearing sciences, the graduate degree must be granted by a regionally accredited institution. Degrees from accredited institutions are defined as those awarded by postsecondary educational institutions that are accredited by regional accrediting agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (e.g., the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges). A degree granted from a foreign institution must be determined to meet equivalent standards upon official review by a foreign credential review agency.

ASHA members and certificate holders may use only graduate degrees from accredited institutions on stationery, business cards, catalogs, advertisements, listings, directories, programs, announcements, or any other publication in which members or certificate holders are identified for some professional purpose.

Graduate degrees are granted in many disciplines that contribute to an understanding of normal and disordered communication. Nevertheless, there are potential risks of misrepresentation in the use of doctoral degrees in disciplines other than speech-language pathology and audiology.

When an individual holds a doctoral degree (e.g., PhD, AuD, ScD) from an accredited institution, it is accepted that this individual may use the title “Doctor.” When a doctoral degree is cited among an individual's professional qualifications in any form of advertising or advertisement, the field of study for the degree must be specified in order to avoid confusion and/or misrepresentation. That is, individuals who use the title “Doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” in writing or in any form of advertising in connection with his/her practice must simultaneously use a clarifying title, initials, abbreviations or designation, or language that identifies the type of practice for which he/she is certified or licensed.

An individual with a doctoral degree outside the field of speech-language pathology, audiology, or communication disorders must avoid using his/her degree designators in a manner that could be confusing to consumers (e.g., client/patient, payers, other professionals, policymakers) and/or is misrepresentative of his/her professional practice. It would be unacceptable if a member/certificate holder who holds a doctoral degree in a field other than speech-language pathology, audiology, or communication sciences and disorders explicitly or implicitly referred to himself/herself as a “Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology” or a “Doctor of Audiology.” For example, a designation such as “PhD, CCC-SLP” could lead the consumer to assume the PhD is in speech-language pathology. It also is the responsibility of the individual to correct any references made by others that indicate that he/she holds a doctorate in speech-language pathology or audiology.

Return to Top

Index terms: graduate programs, ethics

Reference this material as: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). Use of Graduate Degrees by Members and Certificate Holders [Issues in Ethics]. Available from

© Copyright 2010 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association disclaims any liability to any party for the accuracy, completeness, or availability of these documents, or for any damages arising out of the use of the documents and any information they contain.