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How to Become an Audiologist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Healthcare Professionals Specialize in Hearing and Balance

An audiologist is a non-medical healthcare professional who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems in individuals of all ages, from newborn to adult. Whether working in a hospital, school, rehab facility or private clinic, audiologists report a high level of job satisfaction. Although extensive training is required, the rewards can be great.

Job Description

Audiologists examine patients with hearing, balance or related problems and work to find the underlying cause. They fit and dispense hearing aids, as well as develop and administer treatment plans that may include both patient and family members. When appropriate, they counsel patients and family members on ways to listen and communicate, which include the use of sign language or technology. Audiologists specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics, or other areas defined by certifying boards. Audiologists work with physicians, nurses, teachers, engineers, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other professionals when conducting research or working with patients/clients.

Education Requirements

Most states now require you to earn a doctoral degree (AuD), which is four years of specialized study beyond the bachelor's. Graduate programs in audiology do not have a specific requirement for the major field of study at the bachelor's level, although courses in math, psychology, communications, biology, anatomy and physiology are highly recommended. Coursework in a graduate program of audiology typically includes studies in the physiology and psychology of hearing loss, research methods, statistics, neuroanatomy, pharmacology and methods of diagnosis and treatment.

All states require licensure to practice, although specific requirements vary state-to-state. Certification is voluntary, although it can be an important credential for job seekers. Both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Board of Audiology offer certification. The processes differ somewhat, although the end result is essentially the same.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has these requirements for a Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) certification:

  • Graduate degree
  • Minimum of 30 semester hours of professional coursework
  • Minimum of 27 semester hours in basic sciences
  • Minimum of 350 hours of clinical practicum under a supervisor with a CCC-A
  • 36 weeks of supervised clinical fellowship
  • Passing score on the PRAXIS exam (a national academic skills test)
  • Minimum 30 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain certification

Supervision must be provided by an ASHA-certified audiologist and can include hours for direct patient consultation and care, record keeping and administrative duties associated with the delivery of audiology services. In some situations, students may receive pay for practicum work. Some academic institutions and state licensing laws prohibit students from receiving pay for their practicum hours. However, because there are more jobs than audiologists who are qualified to fill them, a clinical practicum can often result in a job offer.

The American Board of Audiology (ABA) has the following requirements for Board Certification in Audiology:

  • Graduate study in audiology from an accredited college or university
  • Master's or doctorate in audiology (a doctorate has been required for new audiologists since 2007)
  • Minimum 2,000 hours of mentored clinical practice over a two-year period
  • Minimum 60 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain certification

The mentor must be a state-licensed audiologist. Certification by the ABA is not required. Candidates for ABA certification are typically in paid positions while working under a mentor's supervision.

Both ASHA and ABA offer opportunities for specialty certifications. Specializations, such as those required in pediatrics or to place cochlear implants, require further training and a passing score on the certifying board's exam.

Industry

Audiologists are employed in a wide variety of settings. Fifty percent of audiologists work in the offices of physicians and other healthcare professionals. Audiologists work in schools, rehabilitation centers, private practice, government and military institutions and in research laboratories.

Most audiologists work full-time, and may work evenings and weekends to meet the needs of their patients. About one in three audiologists is employed on a part-time basis, which makes it a flexible position for a mother of young children. They can always switch to full-time down the line.

Years of Experience

The median salary for an audiologist is $78,659, with salaries typically ranging from $72,409-$85,901. Pay depends more on geographic location and work environment than on years of experience. Expect to see annual starting salaries in this range:

  • Entry-level: $64,860
  • Mid-career (5-10 years experience): $73,140
  • Experienced (10-20 years): $74,520
  • Late-career (20+ years): $76,590

Job Growth Trend

Opportunities for audiologists are better than average for the next decade. Age-related hearing loss is increasingly affecting the large baby boomer population. Greater awareness of hearing loss and prevention, along with more treatment options, make audiology an in-demand speciality among the healthcare professions.