Speech Pathology and Audiology

Three professions concerned with human communication and its disorders are speech-language pathology, audiology and education of the hearing impaired. Each of these professions seeks to help children, youth and adults with communication disabilities that are either present at birth or acquired later in life. Through pre-professional and professional study in evaluation, treatment and research in the human communication sciences and related disciplines, careers in these professions can result in private clinics, governmental agencies, public schools or research laboratories. The career path an individual takes will depend upon training and individual goals. Those who accept the challenge of these professions will find the effort put forward to earn appropriate degrees will be rewarding.

What might you expect to encounter if you accept the challenge of becoming a speech-language pathologist, audiologist or an educator of the hearing impaired? For speech-language pathologists and audiologists the process begins with a broad educational experience in the liberal arts and sciences. Emphasis is placed on basic courses in speech-language development, speech-language disorders, audiology, psychology, and related courses. All of these courses equip the student with skills (analytical, oral and written) to undertake professional training at the graduate level. It is at the graduate level that speech-language pathologists and audiologists receive different academic and clinical training that prepares them for professional certification and licensure and permits them to practice as private practitioners or as employees of public-private agencies.

For educators of the hearing impaired the process begins with an undergraduate major in education and related course work in language development, audiology and sign language. These courses provide the student with a knowledge base and teaching experience in general education, with certification in either elementary or secondary education.

The Idaho State University Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology offers a four-year program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in speech-language pathology and audiology. A Master of Science degree is offered in speech-language pathology, audiology, and education of the hearing impaired. The combined bachelors’ and masters’ programs are designed to prepare students to meet the academic and clinical requirements for the Idaho Department of Education Certificate for Speech-Language Pathologist or Audiologist and the Certificate of Clinical Competence as issued by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). In addition, the requirements for a Master of Science in education of the hearing impaired meet the standards established by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. At the graduate level in speech-language pathology students receive advanced course work as well as clinical experience in a wide variety of disorder areas including child language, phonology (speech sound production), stuttering, voice, neurologic disorders (e.g. brain damage due to stroke or head injury) and speech and language problems associated with cerebral palsy, cleft palate, and mental retardation. Clinical experience both on and off campus provide students with the opportunity to apply information from their course work to children and adults with various communication problems under the direction of certified supervisors.

Graduate course work in audiology focuses on auditory theory, diagnosis of hearing and hearing related problems, and methods of rehabilitation for the pediatric and adult populations. Clinical experiences, both on and off campus, receive heavy emphasis. Experiences include supervised “hands-on” practice in the areas of interviewing, counseling, diagnostic audiology, hearing aid fittings, auditory evoked potentials, and electronystagmography. The clinic population includes all age groups representing a large variety of hearing disorders.

It is at the graduate level that students education of the hearing impaired receive the academic and clinical experience that prepares them for state teacher endorsement permitting them to teach deaf children in either public schools or schools for the deaf.

After Graduation

State and federal forecasts regarding speech-language pathology, audiology and education of the hearing impaired continues to look good nationally as well as regionally. Private and public service providers face new demands as a result of federal legislation, lifestyle changes and changing demographics. All of these factors have led to increased employment opportunities for speech, language and hearing professionals.

Salaries in speech-language pathology, audiology and education for the hearing impaired vary depending on educational background, experience, work setting and location. The median annual salary for certified members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 1992 was $34,000. Starting salaries are in the mid-20s in many public schools and a little higher in many hospitals and government agencies. Persons in supervisory positions in administration, private practice or with a doctorate, may earn well over $45,000 per year.