Planning Your Education in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Careers in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) can be pursued as an audiologist; speech-language pathologist; and speech, language, and hearing scientist. Learn about the educational pathway that leads toward careers as clinicians and faculty-researchers.
More than 300 colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate CSD degree programs in the United States. Preparation to become an audiologist entails earning an entry-level clinical doctoral degree with a major emphasis in audiology (e.g., the doctor of audiology [AuD] degree). The master's degree is required to practice as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). A doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree is most often required for faculty-researcher careers.
ASHA's Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC) offers a national certification for audiologists and SLPs. ASHA certification is a preferred credential by employers, regulators, consumers, and other stakeholders. All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia require a license to practice in both audiology and speech-language pathology, except in practice settings that are exempt from licensure. Accordingly, it is common for clinicians to be licensed to practice within a given state and to hold ASHA certification. A state department of education may require a unique credential to practice in school settings.
To qualify for ASHA certification, an applicant must have graduated from a graduate program that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) and that has demonstrated compliance with the Standards for Accreditation of Graduate Education Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.
Find an Academic Program
EdFind is ASHA's online directory for CSD academic programs and provides a profile of each institution.
An undergraduate degree in CSD is the most common pathway into audiology and speech-language pathology graduate programs but is not required. Individuals with undergraduate degrees in other majors may be required to complete prerequisite coursework. Visit EdFind for more information.
Bachelor's Degree in CSD
In addition to preparing students for graduate education in audiology and speech-language pathology, a bachelor's degree in CSD can lead to careers in a variety of other fields such as health care, education, science, and public policy ( ASHA, 2015 [PDF]). A few CSD undergraduate programs provide preparation for students to become support personnel as audiology assistants or speech-language pathology assistants.
General Knowledge, Skills, Aptitudes, and Experiences
- Critical thinking, problem solving, logical reasoning skills
- Exposure to the scientific method and opportunities for research experiences
- Exposure to the culture of science (e.g., ethics, interdisciplinary research, team science)
- Exposure to other disciplines and professional/scientific organizations
- Opportunities for interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaborative learning
- Exposure to "evidence-informed decision making" as a lifelong learning journey
- Cultural competence
- Competencies in oral and written communication (e.g., reading, writing, listening, speaking)
Social, Behavioral, Biological, and Physical Science Foundations
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Math and statistics
- Physics and acoustics
- Psychology and cognitive science
- Exposure to research contributions across fields
CSD Content Knowledge, Skills, Aptitudes, and Experiences
- Historical and philosophical tenets of the professions
- Normal communication (speech, language, hearing, cognition) across the lifespan
- Overview of hearing and balance disorders
- Overview of speech, language, and swallowing disorders
- Overview of the clinical process, continuum of service delivery, and evidence-based practices
- Co-curricular experiences, such as grand rounds and colloquia, service learning, and undergraduate research
- Exposure to health and education policy and advocacy
- Knowledge of how to work in teams
- Knowledge of clinical, academic, and research careers, including faculty and graduate student research
Graduate study in audiology and speech-language pathology includes both academic and clinical coursework and clinical practicum experiences—which are opportunities for students to develop skills in providing clinical services to various populations. Other opportunities for research, specialized clinical training, or study abroad will vary across programs and should be considered when deciding on a graduate program. Further information can be found in EdFind.
Admission to Graduate School
Admission is competitive and typically requires
- a minimum 3.00 grade point average (average GPA for admission may be much higher);
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (weighting varies across programs);
- an essay and/or biosketch; and
- letters of recommendation.
Resources for Applying to a Graduate CSD Program
Doctoral Degree in Audiology
The doctoral degree in audiology (e.g., AuD) prepares the student for entry into independent practice as an audiologist. The curriculum provides academic and clinical preparation for patient-centered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders for people of all ages. The time-to-degree is 3 or 4 years of full-time study. Search EdFind to find an audiology graduate program.
Education Leading to ASHA Certification
In order to be eligible to apply for ASHA certification in audiology (i.e., Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology [CCC-A]), the student must graduate from a program that is accredited by the Council of Academic Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA).
- Bachelor's degree in any discipline
- See Undergraduate Education for desired general knowledge, skills, aptitudes, experiences, and science foundations.
Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
The master's degree in speech-language pathology prepares the student for practice as an SLP. The curriculum provides academic and clinical preparation for practice in areas of communication and swallowing across the lifespan. The average time-to-degree is 2 years of full-time study.
Education Leading to ASHA Certification
In order to be eligible to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP), the student must graduate from a CAA-accredited program.
A bachelor's degree is required for admission to graduate school. Generally, the undergraduate degree can be in any discipline but is most often in CSD. Individuals with undergraduate degrees from another discipline may be required to complete prerequisite CSD-related coursework. (See Undergraduate Education for desired general knowledge, skills, aptitudes, experiences, and science foundations as well as for CSD content knowledge.)
Some academic programs offer prerequisite courses online. Further information about prerequisite offerings and requirements can be found using EdFind.
Clinical Doctoral Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
The clinical doctoral degree in speech-language pathology (e.g., CScD, SLPD) is an optional, post–entry-level clinical degree intended to provide speech-language pathologists with one means of career advancement and professional development. This clinical degree is intended to prepare SLPs to become
- master clinicians with expertise in a given area of specialty;
- clinical educators or administrators;
- leaders in the clinical setting or specialty area; and
- collaborators and supporters of clinical research.
The curriculum is 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 average time-to-degree is 2–3 years beyond the master's degree.
A master's degree in speech-language pathology is required for admission to the clinical doctoral degree program. Refer to ASHA's Guidelines for the Clinical Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology for guidance. Search EdFind to find a clinical doctoral program in speech-language pathology.
Research Doctoral Degree in CSD
The research doctorate (PhD) in CSD prepares one for a faculty-researcher career to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the science of the discipline. PhD graduates work in colleges and universities, research institutions, public or private agencies, industry, and so forth. PhD education is intended to prepare one to
- apply the scientific method to the development of original research questions that have relevant implications for the discipline;
- critique and synthesize available research;
- design research studies, and analyze and disseminate results;
- implement independent and collaborative research;
- lead research initiatives and teams;
- secure research funding; and
- prepare and mentor future professionals and scientists.
The average time-to-degree is 3–5 following a master's degree in speech-language pathology or 2–3 years following a clinical doctoral degree. There are also combined degree programs where students enroll simultaneously in a graduate clinical degree program and a research doctoral degree program. A PhD curriculum encompasses academic coursework, research experiences, a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation.
Applying to a PhD Program
When deciding on a PhD program, it is important to identify a potential faculty mentor in your area of interest who can help you achieve your academic and research goals.
- Typically, a master's or clinical doctoral degree
- Research interest and/or experience
Search EdFind for PhD programs in CSD, including combined degree programs.