Are you an aspiring audiologist? Do you want to help people manage their hearing and balance disorders? According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate for audiologists will increase by 16% in 2030. This article will focus on everything you need to know in order to become an audiologist.
How Do You Become an Audiologist?
To become an audiologist, you need to earn both a bachelor’s degree in hearing and speech sciences or related fields and a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree, qualify for the praxis examination in audiology, become licensed by your state, and complete professional certification.
The Definition of an Audiologist
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who identify, prevent, diagnose, and treat hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders in people of all ages, from newborns to adults.
The services of an audiologist play a key role in improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that one in eight people in the United States have hearing loss in both ears.
The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age. NIDCD also reports that 50% of people aged 75 years or older have disabling hearing loss.
Steps to Becoming an Audiologist
The professional degree required to become a certified audiologist in the United States is a Doctor of Audiology (AuD). However, to become an audiologist practitioner, you also need to earn a bachelor’s degree, qualify for the Praxis Audiology Examination, and get state licensure and certification..
Mentioned below are 6 steps you should consider to become an audiologist.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
By completing an undergraduate degree program in a subject related to audiology, aspiring audiologists are better-prepared e for their career.
Some AuD programs allow undergraduates with any bachelor’s degree. However, Hearing and Speech Sciences is the best suited undergraduate program for aspiring audiologists.
Ideally, programs offering AuD seek students with academic disciplines in science and technology. Subjects include audiology, speech pathology, biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, and engineering.
Be sure to choose an undergraduate program at a certified university.
Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree (Optional)
Obtaining a master’s degree is not mandatory to become an audiologist in the United States. However, it can help in gaining more knowledge, career advancement, and enhancing professional networks.
If you want to earn a master’s degree before pursuing the Audiology Doctoral program, consider graduate programs related to the field of audiology. One such graduate program is MA in Speech-Language Pathology.
Although universities in the United States do not offer Master of Audiology Studies, other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and India still offer a Master’s Degree in Audiology.
Step 3: Earn a Doctoral Degree in Audiology
Completing the Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program is the most important requirement for becoming an audiologist.
The AuD program is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the field of Audiology. This includes academic and clinical practicum experiences that meet the requirements of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
The AuD program involves 3 to 4 years of full-time study. The curriculum includes professional knowledge coursework, as well as on-campus and off-campus clinical practicums.
The academic and clinical experience must be sufficient enough to demonstrate the knowledge and skills identified in the CFCC Standard II for Audiology.
Ensure you choose a reputable institution, whose program is accredited by Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA).
The CAA, a semi-autonomous body within ASHA, is dedicated to audiology and speech-language pathology programs. It establishes accreditation standards to prepare students to work independently as clinicians.
Step 4: Qualify the Praxis Examination in Audiology
The Praxis Audiology Examination, conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS), includes a series of tests to assess the knowledge and skills of beginning audiologists before becoming certified practitioners.
According to ASHA, The Praxis Examination is an integral component of ASHA certification standards. The national exam material includes 120 questions. All individuals with an AuD degree are required to pass this test in order to practice audiology in various settings.
Once you obtain the qualifying audiologist degrees, you can register for the test.
It is important to note that a new version of the Praxis Audiology Exam is developed every 5-8 years, thereby varying the passing score.
Step 5: Get State Audiology License
Audiologists need to qualify for state licensure in audiology. The licensing requirements for audiologists can differ from state to state. This means that the Praxis Audiology Exam passing score to approve state licenses may be different in each state for audiologists.
Refer to ASHA’s website to learn more about the state-specific license requirements.
Step 6: Complete Accreditation
To prove clinical competence, a professional certification in Audiology can be completed:
- Earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A), offered by ASHA.
- Earn the certifications offered by the American Board of Audiology (ABA).
The ABA certificate is not mandatory. However, being ABA certified will grant you more credibility as an audiologist and improve career opportunities and advancement.
The ABA also offers various audiologist certification programs if you wish to acquire specialized training in audiology such as Tinnitus Management (CH-TM) or Cochlear Implants (CI).
How Long Does it Take to Become an Audiologist?
It takes, on average, nearly 8 years to become an audiologist as both the undergraduate program and the Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program each take 4 years to complete.
Ideally, you need a Doctoral audiology degree to become a certified audiologist. However, completing an undergraduate program in Hearing and Speech Sciences or other related fields is necessary to acquire skills to advance to the Doctor of Audiology.
What Does an Audiologist Study?
Audiologists comprehensively learn how to identify, prevent, diagnose, and treat hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders.
According to ASHA, the knowledge and skill outcomes incorporated in audiology programs are:
- Foundations of Practice
- Prevention and Screening
- Audiologic Evaluation
- Audiologic Rehabilitation Across the Life Span
- Pediatric Audiologic (Re)habilitation
To receive certification for the practice of Audiology, an individual has to complete a supervised clinical practicum and the experience must meet CAA standards for duration, knowledge, and skills.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for an audiologist in 2020 is $81,030 per year and $38.95 per hour. Reports also suggest the employment rate of audiologists is much faster than the average for other healthcare professionals.
The mean salary differs from state to state, with North Dakota offering the highest pay, followed by California and Maryland.
Apart from geographical location, salaries of audiologists can also vary depending on education, board certification, work setting, and experience. For instance, outpatient care centers are found to offer higher pay for audiologists than hospitals or physician offices.
Where Do Audiologists Work?
Audiologists provide services in a variety of professional settings.
As reported by ASHA, the most common career path settings for audiologists are as follows.
73.5% of audiologists are employed in health care settings, such as hospitals, private practice audiology clinics and group practice, and long-term care facilities.
Out of the 15.6% of audiologists employed in educational services, 8.4% are in schools and 7.2% are in colleges and universities. Statistics suggest that out of every 1000 school-age children, 131 have hearing loss.
Audiologists who provide educational services to students with hearing loss are referred to as Educational Audiologists (EdAud). An EdAud ensures that children with hearing loss receive maximum support in order to access information in classrooms.
Local, State, and Federal Government Agencies
Audiologists offer hearing services in government agencies such as public health departments, uniformed services (U.S Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy), and industries with Hearing Conservation Programs.
Audiologist vs ENT
The roles of Audiologists and Otolaryngologists (ENT) are often confused with each other as both professionals provide services to individuals with hearing loss.
An otolaryngologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. ENTs perform both non-invasive and invasive procedures to treat medical conditions related to these areas.
Audiologists, on the other hand, assist individuals in managing hearing loss by administering hearing tests and prescribing and dispensing hearing aids and assistive listening devices. The treatment services offered by audiologists are non-invasive.
When an individual with hearing loss consults an audiologist, the professional will run a series of tests to determine the cause, type, and severity of the hearing loss.
If the hearing loss is caused by long-term noise exposure or due to age-related factors, the audiologist will prescribe hearing aids and discuss other management options. In the case of an underlying cause, such as an ear infection, the audiologist will refer the individual to an ENT.
Final Thoughts On How to Become an Audiologist
To become a certified audiologist, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree, a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree, pass the Praxis Audiology Examination, obtain a state license, and complete the accreditation of CCC-A offered by ASHA.
Based on your interests, you can also specialize in different areas of audiology, such as Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Hearing aids, Cochlear implants, Tinnitus, and more.