Careers in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Speech-language pathologists are certified and state-licensed professionals with master’s degrees. SLPs serve serve people across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly, with speech, language, cognitive, and swallowing challenges. They work with people with voice and resonance disorders, developmental speech sound disorders, stuttering, language impairments, reading disability, and communication and cognitive difficulties associated with neurological disorders such as stroke, head injury, and cerebral palsy.
SLPs diagnose speech and language disorders, working directly with clients, support family interactions, and consult and collaborate with other professionals, such as physicians, teachers, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and audiologists. They also collaborate with researchers investigating the cause, nature, assessment, and treatment of communication disorders. Work settings include hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, nursing facilities, home health care centers, early intervention programs, community centers, university clinics, and private practice. Experienced SLPs may work in university graduate programs as clinical educators. This is a profession with extensive job opportunities following a master's degree (the minimum requirement for certification and licensure).
Audiologists are certified and state-licensed professionals with doctoral degrees. Audiologists work with people across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly. They assess, treat, and manage many kinds of hearing and balance challenges, working closely with patients and their families. They know about many conditions that can cause hearing loss, including genetic features, birth trauma, viral and bacterial infection, injury, exposure to intense noise, and advancing age.
Audiologists use specialized equipment to evaluate and treat hearing and balance, including fitting of amplification (e.g. hearing aids, cochlear implants, other assistive listening devices), rehabilitation programs to help individuals overcome the effects of hearing loss, and directing programs for hearing loss prevention due to noise exposure. Audiologists collaborate with other professionals, including physicians, teachers, psychologists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and deaf educators. Work settings include hospitals, schools, industry, rehabilitation centers, community centers, and private practice settings. Experienced audiologists may work in university graduate programs as clinical educators. This is a profession with extensive job opportunities for those that complete a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree.
Deaf Educators work in a variety of early intervention, preschool, and K-12 settings. Depending on expertise, they provide services to help children develop listening and spoken language, American Sign Language, or both. Deaf Educators complete comprehensive assessments to evaluate language, literacy, academic, and social development to determine the individual educational needs of each child. They provide academic instruction in general education classrooms, self-contained classrooms, specialized private programs, state schools for the deaf, individual and small groups, and home-based services for families of young children.
Deaf Educators collaborate with other professionals, including special educators, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other educational or medical professionals. There is a significant shortage of qualified deaf educators in the United States, with many job opportunities for graduates of deaf education teacher training programs.
Individuals with Doctor of Philosophy degrees (Ph.D.s) work in universities as professors. Professors conduct research and scholarship that advance knowledge of communication disorders and clinical practice. They teach and mentor all levels of college students, and provide professional development to speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and deaf educators. Professors support and advance higher education and clinical practice through university, state, and national leadership roles. Doctoral-trained professionals may also use their skills in research hospitals and industry labs, private practice, and administration in diverse work settings.
Speech-Language Assistants and Other Professions
Bachelor degree graduates may also work as a speech-language assistant (SLPA) (also called speech-language technician) in the field of communication disorders. SLPAs are typically employed in schools, under the supervision of an SLP. Bachelor degree graduates may also work as audiology assistants. Since bachelor degrees in communication disorders are pre-professional degrees, the requirements, responsibilities, and conditions of the job vary by state and employer. As of 2020, ASHA offers SLPA certification, but states and employers vary on whether they require this. The supervised clinical experiences required for ASHA SLPA certification can be obtained either as part of an academic program or as on-the-job training/work. Requirements for these experiences differ from those required to become a certified speech-language pathologist.
Students who graduate with a Bachelor’s in COMDDE have a solid educational foundation for moving into other careers in health, education, and human services. Students will need to complete additional professional education toward certification or a degree in another field, but COMDDE is an excellent first step. Related fields that our graduates can go on to include special education, early childhood education, social work, school counseling, gerontology, rehabilitation counseling, family and human development, family therapy, and instructional technology and learning.