Field of Study: Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Programs in speech pathology and audiology prepare students to work with patients who have speech and hearing problems. Students learn how hearing and speech work. They learn to identify and treat problems. They also learn how to teach patients ways to improve their language and hearing abilities.
Being able to hear, talk, and understand others is something most people take for granted. Yet, for many people, these basic skills are difficult at best. For example, many children have trouble sorting their thoughts into clear ideas and sentences. Others, from toddlers to adults, have problems talking without stuttering. In addition, many people suffer serious injuries or strokes that affect the physical ability to hear and form words.
Speech pathologists and audiologists help people with speech, language, or hearing disorders. Speech pathologists typically concentrate on language and speech skills. Audiologists usually focus on hearing problems and the use of hearing aids and other hearing devices.
As a speech pathologist or audiologist, you can work in schools, hospitals, or nursing homes. You can also work in rehabilitation centers and in private practice. However, the majority of people with degrees in speech pathology and audiology work in schools.
In speech pathology and audiology programs, you take courses in communication development and ability. You study the causes of communication disorders and how to diagnose and treat them. You also learn about human biology and anatomy as these topics relate to hearing and talking. In addition, you can specialize in different areas of communication disorders. Specialties include language disorders, voice disorders, stuttering, phonology, and cleft palates.
The most common way to become a speech pathologist or audiologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in communication disorders, then a master's degree in speech pathology or audiology. A master's degree is usually considered the entry-level degree for employment in the field. Typically it takes four years to complete your bachelor's and two to three years to complete your master's. A number of schools in the U.S. offer programs in communication disorders and speech pathology and audiology.
In addition, some schools offer doctoral programs in speech pathology and audiology, which usually take three to five years to complete. Most people with doctoral degrees become professors, researchers, or administrators.