If you've ever had your hearing tested, thank an audiologist. Audiologists use computers, audiometers and other testing instruments to determine how well individuals can hear sounds and distinguish one sound from another. They diagnose hearing and balance problems in people of all ages and come up with a course of treatment based on their findings. Becoming an audiologist requires undergraduate and advanced degrees.
An aspiring audiologist must first complete four years of undergraduate education, culminating in a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science. Prerequisites include a high school diploma (with high grades in science, English and math) and competitive SAT or ACT scores. Students should expect to take courses about language disorders, hearing, language and speech; some classes might involve hands-on clinical experience with real-life patients. Other classes might include phonetics, American sign language, communication disorder statistics, pediatric speech disorders and voice disorders.
Audiologists are also required to complete a master’s degree program in audiology. Programs typically last two years; admissions prerequisites include high Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, along with college-level courses in mathematics, English, biology, chemistry, physics, communication and psychology. Degree coursework includes physiology, anatomy, genetics, physics, normal and abnormal communication development, balance, auditory, neural systems assessment and treatment, pharmacology, diagnosis, treatment and ethics.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a doctoral degree is increasingly required to become an audiologist. As of 2009, 18 states required aspiring audiologists to hold a doctorate degree; programs last about four years and result in the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree. Programs receive accreditation from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a division of the Council on Academic Accreditation.
Clinical Experience and Exam
To become licensed, audiologists must complete a certain number of clinical practice hours (to be determined by the state of licensure) and pass a state-specific licensing exam. Two voluntary certifications — the CCC-A and the ABA — are also available. To earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A) from the ASHA, applicants must have a graduate degree in audiology as well as 375 hours of clinical experience obtained under the supervision of a licensed audiologist,and completion of a 36-week clinical fellowship following graduate school. Applicants must also pass the Praxis Series of Educational Testing Services exam in audiology. To earn the American Board of Audiology (ABA) certification, applicants must pass an exam and have completed 2,000 hours of supervised experience in the two years prior to applying for certification.