Education and Training: Master's or doctoral degree
Salary: Median—$51,470 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Audiologists help people who have hearing, balance, and related ear problems. These problems may be a result of trauma at birth, viral infections, genetic disorders, exposure to loud noise, certain medications, or aging. Using various types of testing equipment, audiologists measure patients' ability to hear and distinguish between sounds. In addition, they use computers to evaluate and diagnose balance disorders. Audiologists analyze these test data along with educational, psychological, and other medical patient data to make a diagnosis and determine a course of treatment.
More than half the practicing audiologists work in health care facilities. Another significant portion provides services to schools. Some have private practices, and others work in colleges and universities, clinics, hospitals, special speech and hearing centers, government agencies, and private industry. Some audiologists are researchers.
Education and Training Requirements
A master's degree in audiology has been the standard in the profession. However, a clinical doctoral degree (doctor of audiology, or Au.D.) is becoming more common and will soon be the new standard. You must also achieve a passing score on the national examination on audiology offered through the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service. Other requirements typically are 300 to 375 hours of supervised clinical experience and nine months of postgraduate professional clinical experience. Audiologists can become certified by both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the American Board of Audiology. Some states require a special license to dispense hearing aids.
Getting the Job
You can apply directly to the health care facility, school, clinic, or other institution in which you would like to work. Your school placement office or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association can give you information about job openings. You can also check job listings in the want ads in newspapers and on the Internet.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement depends on education and experience. Audiologists can become supervisors or heads of clinics. They can set up private practices. Those with the necessary training can work as consultants, do research, and write books or articles on hearing problems.
Employment of audiologists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Employment in health and rehabilitation services will increase as a result of advances in medical technology and growth in the elderly population. In addition, as awareness of the importance of the early recognition and treatment of hearing problems increases, so will the demand for professionals in elementary and secondary schools.
Working conditions are usually pleasant. The job requires attention to detail and intense concentration.
Many audiologists work more than forty hours a week. Their hours are often flexible, and there are part-time jobs available. Audiologists may have contracts with various schools or other institutions and may spend time traveling among those facilities.
Where to Go for More Information
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
American Academy of Audiology
11730 Plaza American Dr., Ste. 300
Reston, VA 20190
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary widely depending on education, experience, and location. Median annual earnings of audiologists were $51,470 in May 2004. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.