Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Since a college degree is a must for practicing in this profession, make sure your high school classes are geared toward preparing you for higher education. Health and science classes, including biology, are very important. Mathematics classes and English classes will help you develop the math, research, and writing skills you will need in college. Because speech-language pathologists and audiologists work so intensely with language, you may also find it beneficial to study a foreign language, paying special attention to how you learn to make sounds and remember words. Speech classes will also improve your awareness of sounds and language as well as improve your speaking and listening skills.

Postsecondary Training

Most states require a master's degree in speech-language pathology or audiology for a beginning job in either profession. Most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed if they work in a health care setting. Typical majors for those going into this field include communication sciences and disorders, speech and hearing, or education.

Regardless of your career goal (speech-language pathologist or audiologist), your undergraduate course work should include classes in anatomy, biology, physiology, physics, and other related areas, such as linguistics, semantics, and phonetics. It is also helpful to have some exposure to child psychology.

Accredited graduate programs in speech-language pathology are available at approximately 260 colleges and universities. Graduate-level work for those in speech-language pathology includes studies in evaluating and treating speech and language disorders, stuttering, pronunciation, and voice modulation. To be eligible for certification, which most employers and states require, you must have at least a master's degree from a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

All states require audiologists to be licensed to practice and many states require audiologists to earn a doctorate in order to be certified. Currently there are about 75 accredited doctoral programs in audiology. Graduate-level course work in audiology includes such studies as hearing and language disorders, normal auditory and speech-language development, balance, and audiology instrumentation.

Students of both disciplines are required to complete supervised clinical fieldwork or practicum. It is in your best interest to contact the ASHA or the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) for a listing of accredited programs before you decide on a graduate school to attend. Some schools offer graduate degrees only in speech-language pathology or graduate degrees only in audiology. A number of schools offer degrees in both fields.

If you plan to practice in some states or go into research, teaching, or administration, you will need to complete a doctorate degree.

Other Education or Training

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers continuing education courses, web/telephone seminars, live and self-study Web workshops, and conferences. Topics include practice issues, legal documentation, technology, ethics, language and literacy, and working with children who do not speak English as a first language. The American Auditory Society and the Educational Audiology Association also provide professional development opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

To work as a speech pathologist or audiologist in a public school, you will be required to be a certified teacher and you must meet special state requirements if treating children with disabilities. Most states require speech-language pathologists to be licensed if they work in a health care setting, and some states require the same license to practice in a public school. In order to become licensed, you must have completed an advanced degree in the field (generally a master's degree, but a doctorate is becoming the new standard for audiologists), pass a standardized test, and complete 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Audiologists must be licensed in all states. Many states require audiologists to have a doctorate degree in order to be licensed. Some states permit audiologists to dispense hearing aids under an audiology license. Specific education and experience requirements, type of regulation, and title use vary by state.

Many states base their licensing laws on American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) certification requirements. ASHA offers speech-language pathologists the certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology and audiologists the certificate of clinical competence in audiology. To be eligible for these certifications, you must meet certain education requirements, such as the supervised clinical fieldwork experience, and have completed a postgraduate clinical fellowship. The fellowship must be no less than 36 weeks of full-time professional employment or its part-time equivalent. You must then pass an examination in the area in which you want certification. Credentialing is also available from the American Board of Audiology.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Speech-language pathology and audiology college students can gain valuable practical experience by completing a supervised clinical fieldwork or a practicum, and completion of this fieldwork is usually a requirement for graduation. 

Naturally, speech-language pathologists and audiologists should have strong communication skills. Note, though, that this means more than being able to speak clearly. You must be able to explain diagnostic test results and treatment plans in an easily understood way for a variety of clients who are already experiencing problems. As a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, you should enjoy working with people, both your clients and other professionals who may be involved in the client's treatment. In addition, you need patience and compassion. A client's progress may be slow, and you should be supportive and encouraging during these times.