What Can I Do with a Communication Disorders Degree?

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You likely already know someone who is affected by a hearing or speech-language disorder. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, 48 million people in the U.S. are affected by hearing loss. Additionally, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 7.5 million Americans have trouble using their voices. An estimated 3 million Americans also experience fluency issues (stuttering). Finally, between 6 million and 8 million people are affected by language impairment.

Audiologists, audiology assistants, and speech-language pathologists play an important role in the fight to help those with hearing loss, hearing impairment, and speech-language disorders. They contribute to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sensorineural and conductive hearing issues that affect millions of Americans. For those wanting to be part of the solution, a bachelor’s degree such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders could be a great first step toward their professional goals.

When considering getting into the speech-language and hearing field, you may ask, “What can I do with a communication disorders degree?” Understanding the potential career opportunities that a bachelor’s in communication disorders could set you up for is an important first step in pursuing a speech-language and hearing career.

Speech-language pathologist working with a young patient in an office.

What jobs can I get with a communication disorders degree?

Graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders are often equipped with vast knowledge in language development, speech pathology, and the speech and hearing disorders that affect millions of Americans every year. This could put them in a position to assist people with communication challenges. With the right combination of skills and experience, you can do a lot with a communication disorders degree, as evidenced by the following potential career paths. Note that salary numbers are subject to change and vary based on factors such as experience and location.

Audiologist assistant

Audiologist assistants work under the direct supervision of a licensed audiologist in a supporting role. They perform office tasks, such as answering phones, scheduling patient appointments, and recordkeeping, and possibly some hands-on support tasks with patients and hearing aid equipment (under supervision).

This is an entry-level role that requires a high school diploma as the minimum level of education. However, some audiologists prefer to have an assistant with a bachelor’s degree.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary of medical assistants, including audiologist assistants, was $35,850 as of May 2020. The BLS projects job opportunities for audiologist assistants to grow by 19% between 2019 and 2029.

Audiologist

Audiologists specialize in helping patients prevent, identify, and manage the symptoms of hearing impairment and the issues that are often associated with it. They play a critical role in helping those with hearing issues improve their quality of life using evidence-based treatments and technologies such as cochlear implants and hearing aids. Due to how widespread hearing issues are across all demographics, audiologists can work in a variety of settings, ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics.

The BLS projects job opportunities for audiologists to grow by 13% between 2019 and 2029. It also reports that audiologists made a median annual salary of $81,030 in 2020. A doctorate in audiology is the minimum level of education required for this role; however, a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences could be a solid first step toward that career path.

Speech-language pathology assistant

Speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) function as support staff to speech-language pathologists (SLPs). They conduct all job responsibilities within their scope under the strict supervision of an SLP. SLPAs assist with speech, language, and hearing screenings and assessments; however, they do so without clinical interpretation. The SLP develops and documents treatment plans, and the SLPA assists in their execution and communicating them to patients and their families under the SLP’s direction. SLPAs also assist with clerical work, such as filing, scheduling, ordering supplies, and recordkeeping.

The minimum level of education required to enter the field as a speech-language pathology assistant is an associate degree from an accredited SLPA program. Many SLPs prefer to hire assistants who started with a bachelor’s in communication sciences or speech-language pathology, so it is a career path you can pursue with a communication disorders degree.

SLPAs earned a median annual salary of about $41,000 as of August 2021, according to PayScale.com.

Speech-language pathologist

Speech-language pathologists treat a wide variety of communication problems, such as articulation disorders, phonological disorders, aphasia, fluency challenges (stuttering), communication issues, and even challenges with swallowing or eating. Much like audiologists, SLPs can work in a wide variety of settings, with many different types of patients who are affected by social communication issues or cognitive issues that affect speech. For instance, stroke victims will often work with SLPs to help them regain any lost verbal skills.

The BLS projects a 25% increase in the employment of SLPs from 2019 to 2029. It also reports that SLPs made an approximate annual salary of $80,480 in 2020. A master’s degree in either speech-language pathology or communicative sciences and disorders is typically required to become a speech-language pathologist.

What is the ASHA Audiology Assistants Certification?

What you can do with a communication disorders degree can also depend on certification. For example, the role of audiology assistant may require only an undergraduate education, but the Audiology Assistants Certification (C-AA) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is mandatory. This certification program establishes that the professional has the necessary knowledge and skills for the role. It also ensures the assistant is meeting the standards and requirements set forth by ASHA. To complete the C-AA program, applicants must complete the following six steps.

  • Standard I – Degree: The applicant must hold a GED, high school diploma, certificate from a military job series, or college degree.
  • Standard II – Education: The applicant must complete a course covering ethics, universal safety precautions, and patient confidentiality.
  • Standard III – Clinical Supervised Experience: The applicant must complete a minimum number of supervised clinical hours, which varies by degree type.
  • Standard IV – Assessment: The applicant must pass a national exam created by ASHA.
  • Standard V – Assistants Code of Conduct: The applicant must adhere to ASHA’s Assistants Code of Conduct.
  • Standard VI – Maintenance of Certification: C-AA holders must complete the C-AA Maintenance of Certification Assessment (MOCA) after three years.

What are the common types of communication disorders?

Individuals wondering what they can do with a communication disorders degree would benefit from delving deeper into the types of communication disorders that speech-language and hearing professionals work with. While speech-language and hearing disorders are wide and varied, affecting all ages and demographics, the following are some of the most common:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Hearing loss that is caused by damage to the cochlea, auditory nerve, or auditory portion of the brain
  • Conductive hearing loss: Hearing loss that is caused by damage to the external auditory canal or the middle ear
  • Mixed receptive-expressive language disorder: Problems understanding spoken language and speaking caused by a developmental delay
  • Social communication disorder: Extreme to moderate difficulty with nonverbal and verbal communication
  • Expressive language disorder: Problems speaking that are caused by developmental delays
  • Fluency disorder: Difficulty when speaking that results in stuttering or stammering
  • Speech-sound disorder: Difficulty expressing words clearly
  • Full or partial deafness: The inability to hear sound
  • Aphasia: Trouble speaking, reading, writing, or understanding speech as a result of a brain injury or trauma
  • Vocal disorder: Speech that is very hoarse or too loud or the inability to achieve a normal volume
  • Dysphagia: Difficulty or inability to chew and swallow foods and/or liquids

Start making a difference today

The work that speech-language and hearing professionals do is important in modern healthcare. Communication disorders have been a longstanding challenge to millions of Americans, but these healthcare providers and ASHA continue to promote awareness and deliver solutions.

If you want to join them in these efforts, Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders can provide you with the educational foundation you need to begin on your career path. If you want to rise to a high level in audiology or speech-language pathology, this degree could be a stepping-stone to your master’s or doctoral degree.

Bravely take the first step toward your goals today with Maryville University.

Recommended Reading

Four Rewarding Communication Sciences and Disorders Careers

How to Become an Audiologist Assistant

Professional Fluency: How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Sources

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “2020 Standards for ASHA Audiology Assistants Certification

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Assistants Code of Conduct

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Audiologists

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Audiology Assistants

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Quick Facts

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Speech-Language Pathology Assistants

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Scope of Practice

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Who Are Speech-Language Pathologists, and What Do They Do?

Center for Hearing and Communication, “The Facts About Hearing Loss

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “Statistics on Voice, Speech, and Language”

PayScale.com, “Audiologist Assistant Hourly Pay

PayScale.com, “Speech-Language Pathology Assistant Hourly Pay

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Audiologists”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Speech-Language Pathologists”