If you’re looking for a growing, rewarding career that also is challenging, audiology may be for you. Audiologists diagnose and treat hearing, balance, and other ear-related problems in patients resulting from birth defects, diseases, or head injuries. Those interested in working with people of all ages might be attracted to the field, too, as patients could include the very young, such as infants, to the elderly. In addition to personable skills, there is also a large technology component that may draw students to the field, as audiologists use audiometers and computers to help treat patients, and may work in the research and development of hearing aids.
A degree in audiology would train you in the various tools and computer programs used to gather information about patients, how to interpret those results, and ultimately recommend treatment or perform that rehabilitation yourself. Audiology students often also learn sign language to help communicate with deaf patients.
Classes and Assignments of an Audiology Major
Hearing is closely related with speech, so it’s no surprise that you’ll often find audiology in the same department or degree program as speech pathology. For those on the audiology track, though, you can expect to study the perception of sounds, physical and psychological characteristics that underlie hearing, and disorders that affect the ability to hear. To that end, classes might include anatomy and physiology of speech and hearing, speech and language science, phonetics, normal language development, communication disorders, articulation disorders, phonetics, genetics, human development, and language and culture in society. More advanced degree levels, such as Ph.D. programs, might also include classes in pharmacology and ethics, healthcare administration, counseling, cochlear implants, and programmable hearing aids.
Hands-on experience is a crucial component to any audiology program – the best college degrees in audiology, at least, would have some requirement – so you can also expect to have required clinical observation and practicum experience during your program. Depending on the program, you may also conduct research. Though on-site, clinical hours are important, there may be opportunities for an online audiology degree, especially at higher level, for those looking for a flexible program.
Degree Levels for an Audiology Major
- Associate. There are few, if any, learning opportunities for audiology at the associate degree level, which is often recommended for people who do not know what they want to study. There is limited training through certificate programs that could prepare you to work as an audiology assistant, but online associate audiology degrees are not the best college degree for future, practicing audiologists, especially if you know that you want to pursue this career.
- Bachelor’s. Online bachelors audiology degrees ultimately prepare you for work at the master’s degree level, which is the standard education requirement to practice as an audiologist in the U.S. Students would gain a foundation in anatomy and physiology, as well as gain clinical experience. Many schools offer five year bachelor’s-master’s degrees as a fast track to gaining licensure.
- Master’s. As previously mentioned, a master’s degree is the standard level of education required to practice as an audiologist, as all states require at least a master’s to sit for its licensing exam. Online masters audiology degrees would prepare you for this exam and other various credentials, or for continued work at the doctorate level in audiology.
- Doctoral. While a master’s degree is currently the standard for audiologists, a doctorate, or Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), is increasingly becoming the norm, as 18 states currently require an Au.D. to become a licensed audiologist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is typically a four-year program, depending on the student and school, with an emphasis on clinical learning experience. Students may also perform work in a lab, such as in hearing aid development. Given the rising educational standard, a doctoral degree is becoming one of the most useful college degrees for audiologists, especially those looking to remain competitive in the field.
A Future as an Audiology Major
Most audiology students go on to practice, working in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of patients who have hearing or balance disorders. According to the BLS, the majority of audiologists work in health-care facilities,
such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, or private practice. Audiologists may also find work in elementary and secondary schools, or colleges and universities. For those who don’t practice, some audiologists may go on to have careers in the health insurance industry, special education, disability law, or hospital or school administration. Wages will vary by employer, as well as by experience and location, though the mean annual salary for audiologists is $69,840, according to the most recent figures from the BLS (as of May 2010).
Audiology is often touted as a hot career, with employment expected to grow by 25% from 2008 to 2018, according to the BLS. More audiologists are anticipated to help treat our growing elderly population, since the chances of developing hearing and balance impairments increase as we get older. Demand for audiologists is also expected to help in the early detection of hearing disorders in infants, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as there’s greater awareness of the importance of early identification and diagnosis in newborns. In fact, most states now require all newborns be screened for hearing loss and receive appropriate services. Despite this anticipated growth, audiology is still a small occupation, making it a competitive field, so audiologists with an Au.D. may have the most favorable opportunities, according to the BLS.
Students with a degree in Audiology are considered well prepared for