Speech-Language Pathology And Audiology Preprofessional Preparation

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Communication Disorders

The field of Communication Disorders has two main professions – Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

What Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) Do?  Speech-language pathologists (also called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders are caused by conditions such as stroke, hearing loss, cleft palate, cerebral palsy, and developmental disorders such as autism and Down Syndrome.

Where do SLPs Work?  Speech-language pathologists work in schools, hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, and in private practice. Almost half work in schools and most others work in healthcare facilities.

How to Become a SLP?  Speech-language pathologists typically need a master’s degree and are licensed by the state. Those who graduate from an accredited graduate program and pass a national board examination qualify for license.

How much do SLPs Earn?  Median 2016 salary was $74,680 per year.  Starting salaries are significantly less than that!

What is the Job Outlook?  Job outlook is excellent.  for SLPs, with projected increase of 18 percent from 2016 to 2026.  The average projected growth rate for all occupations within this timeframe is seven percent.

What Audiologists Do?  Audiologists help diagnose and provide non-medical management of hearing and balance disorders using technology and specialized procedures.

Where do Audiologists Work?  Most audiologists work in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, and audiology and hearing aid dispensing clinics. Some work in schools, armed forces, and industry.

How to Become an Audiologist?  Audiologists need a doctoral degree and are licensed by states.  Those who graduate from an accredited program and pass a national board examination qualify for license.

How much Audiologists Earn?  Median yearly salary in 2016 was $75,980.  Starting salary is likely to be lower!

What is the Job Outlook?  Jobs for audiologists are projected to grow 21 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Data for salary and job outlook are from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/).

How does One Prepare for a Career in Communication Disorders?

Similar to other health-related pre-professional programs (e.g., medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and so on), it is important to take courses at the undergraduate level that will prepare you for admission to a graduate program in speech-language pathology or audiology. Selected courses in Linguistics, English, Psychology, Communication Disorders, and Education in addition to courses in Statistics, Physics, and Biology are typically required to gain admission to a graduate program.

Admission to graduate programs is highly competitive and requires a high grade-point average, satisfactory performance on Graduate Records Examination, letters of recommendation from people who can comment on your capabilities and potential, and a record of participation in community and volunteering activities.  Information on volunteering, job-shadowing, and internship opportunities are presented on this page.

There are other professions, besides speech-language pathologist and audiologist, that some students may want to pursue after completing the pre-professional coursework.  Learn more about other career options that may be easier to get into and may be attractive to some students here.

Communication Disorders Program at Iowa State

At Iowa State, you may major or minor in Linguistics, Psychology, or Communication Studies, among other possible majors, while completing the program of study described in this document. Since a graduate degree is required for a career in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology, careful planning is required to complete this program of study to maximize your chances of being accepted into a graduate program. The admission to graduate programs is highly competitive and you will need to maintain a high grade-point average (Recent graduate admissions data are available here). However, there is no assurance that you will gain admission to a graduate program in Communication Disorders by following the program of study described on this website.  The objectives of the Iowa State University’s pre-professional Communication Disorders program are described here.

Each graduate program sets its own requirements for courses to be completed at the undergraduate level. Complete as many of the courses listed on the Recommended Courses page as possible so that you meet the requirements of a large number of graduate programs. Many of the courses listed here also fulfill the Iowa State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree requirements. You will be making progress towards a degree in your chosen major while taking these courses.  At present, we do not offer two recommended courses.  You will need to take these two courses at another university.  Information on where to take these courses (and possibly other courses that might be required by a graduate program you are interested in) is found here.

Once you are certain that you will want to pursue graduate studies in Communication Disorders, make a list of at least 20 graduate programs you would want to apply to and gather information about their admission requirements (required courses, grade point average, Graduate Records Examination scores, how many students apply to their program each year, and how many are accepted, etc.) An excellent place to gather this information is the EdFind (http://www.asha.org/edfind/).  Additional information about applying to graduate programs is found on this page.

If there is a course, besides the ones you take at Iowa State, that is required by a certain program you want to apply to, consider completing the course online at another university. Before you do that, talk to the admission personnel at the program you want to apply to confirm that the course you are planning to take is required and accepted by them.