Planning Your Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD)
Whether you are a high school student or undergraduate student, it is not too early to think about an exciting career in communication sciences and disorders (CSD). Careers in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing sciences offer a variety of work settings and patient/client populations.
There are over 200 institutions that offer undergraduate degrees in CSD. While many audiologists and speech-language pathologists begin their educations with undergraduate degrees (e.g., BA, BS) in CSD majors, there are a number of students who do not. Non-CSD majors may need to complete certain prerequisites, which would add to the time involved in attaining the degree. Admission requirements vary depending on the graduate program. Some programs may admit students and provide the prerequisite classes, while others may admit students on a conditional basis, pending successful completion of prerequisite course work. Some academic programs offer prerequisite courses online; these institutions can be identified using ASHA's online search engine EdFind. EdFind also has information on:
- institutions designated as Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HCBSUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs)
- institutions with multicultural/bilingual emphases
- study abroad opportunities
- part time enrollment opportunities
- institutions with combined degree programs (e.g., bachelors/masters)
To embark on a career as an ASHA certified audiologist or speech-language pathologist, students must complete the necessary entry-level graduate degree from a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA).
The CAA is the entity within ASHA that accredits clinical doctoral programs in audiology and master's programs in speech-language pathology. CAA's accreditation program
- is standards-based and supported through widespread peer review,
- promotes excellence in professional preparation by requiring academic programs to participate in continuous program improvement activities,
- ensures that the academic and clinical curriculum offered covers the full breadth and depth of the scope of practice,
- verifies that students can become eligible for relevant state and national credentials for independent professional practice.
Many states require graduation from an accredited program for licensure or teacher credentialing. The Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) has posted a video, "The Value of Accreditation," designed to help students make informed decisions about accreditation and their academic and career paths.
An entry-level degree is required for individuals who seek the credentials to practice in the professions (e.g., ASHA's Certificate of Clinical Competence, state licensure). To learn more about the specific requirements, visit the ASHA Certification and ASHA State-by-State webpages.
- The entry-level degree to become an ASHA-certified audiologist is a clinical doctorate (e.g., AuD)
- The entry-level degree to become an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist is a master's degree (e.g., MA, MS)
The most common degree designators for the entry-level clinical doctorate in audiology is Doctor of Audiology (AuD).
Common speech-language pathology master's degree designators are
- Master of Arts (MA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Education (MEd)
Undergraduate Degrees in CSD
One objective of a CSD undergraduate degree program is to prepare students for a graduate degree program in audiology or speech-language pathology. In addition to foundational courses in the biological, physical, statistics, and social/behavioral sciences and humanities, students are likely to take courses in one or more of the following topics:
- normal language development,
- language disorders and phonology,
- anatomy of hearing and speech mechanisms,
- introduction to audiology.
Exposure to research can provide students with valuable tools for future clinical and research practice. Many undergraduate and graduate programs offer research experiences and/or require that students participate in research activities. These may include:
- participating in an on-campus summer research program,
- presenting as part of an on-campus research symposium,
- taking an undergraduate research course for credit,
- working in a faculty research lab.
Research opportunities also may include individual or collaborative research projects that result in conference presentations or assisting with research/journal clubs, literature reviews, data collection, and/or subject selection related to a faculty member's research program.
Admission to Graduate School
Admission to graduate school is competitive. Many programs must turn away well-qualified students, because the programs do not have the capacity to admit and educate all qualified applicants. EdFind includes grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score ranges for the most recently admitted students. Students may wish to review the number of applications received and the number of admissions offered in the "Application and Admission" section of the Program Profile in EdFind to gauge competitiveness. Determining the percentage of students recruited from the institution's undergraduate program and the percentage of students recruited from other institutions can be another indicator. The admissions profile may guide students in identifying academic programs that are a good fit with their academic performance and goals.
Typically, graduate programs require
- a minimum 3.00 GPA to be admitted, although in any given year, an admitted class of audiology or speech-language pathology students may have a much higher average GPA,
- GRE scores,
- an essay,
- letters of recommendation.
Search EdFind to review the application deadlines for the academic programs of interest. Some conduct an annual application and admission protocol, while others offer rolling admission. An ASHA Leader article, "Student's Say: Craft a Stand-Out Application," outlines some key points for students to consider when applying to graduate school. Some institutions require a student to apply through the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) Centralized Application Service (CSDCAS).
To learn about financial aid, check with your academic institution's financial aid office. Information is also available on the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, and other websites, such as FinAid. Graduate academic program profiles in EdFind include information about students offered admission with funding. ASHA offers student awards and the ASHFoundation offers scholarships.
Graduate Program of Study
Graduate programs in CSD include both academic and clinical course work (i.e., clinical practica). Students also may engage in research-related activities. Search EdFind to identify CSD-specific programs that offer study abroad opportunities, CSD programs offered by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and those with a multicultural or bilingual emphasis.
Graduate Degrees in Speech-Language Pathology
The post entry-level clinical doctorate in speech-language pathology (e.g., CScD, SLPD) is an optional degree intended to impart
- advanced knowledge and skills regarding critical thinking and clinical problem solving
- depth of knowledge in select areas of clinical practice
- expertise in interpreting and applying clinical research
- leadership and advocacy, clinical teaching, oral and written communication about the clinical enterprise, and interprofessional practice
The clinical doctorate is not an entry-level degree for speech-language pathology but rather an emerging optional career path degree and is currently offered at only a few institutions. The Academic Affairs Board Report to the ASHA Board of Directors on the Clinical Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology [PDF] provides additional information about this optional degree.
Pursuing a PhD
The research doctorate (e.g., PhD) is designed to prepare students for an academic and research career with the expectation that they will contribute to the science of the discipline. The program of study for a research doctoral degree is designed to
- enable the student to extensively study a focused area of interest within the discipline
- learn the scientific method
- acquire the skill set necessary to independently pursue a program of research
- secure funding for research in one's area of interest
- contribute to the basic and applied knowledge base of the discipline
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