Careers in Communicative Disorders

Learn about careers in communicative disorders, including those in audiology and speech pathology. Find information about degree programs, professional certifications, job outlook and salary. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Communicative Disorder Specialist?

If you are interested in building a career around helping people work through communicative disorders, you might want to consider becoming either a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist. Speech-language pathologist work with patients who have speech, language or swallowing issues. They diagnoses treatment options and work with patients to strengthen muscles, retrain speech patterns and improve communication skills. Audiologists work with auditory problems pertaining to ears, balance or other hearing issues. They utilize different testing to determine the type of problems patient's face. They then determine treatment be it hearing aids or possible surgery.

The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary for two careers in this field.

Speech-Language Pathologist Audiologist
Education Required Master's degree Doctorate degree, professional degree
Education Field of Study Speech-language development, age related disorders, swallowing disorders Anatomy, genetics, abnormal communication development
Training Required Supervised clinical experience l Supervised clinical practice
Key Responsibilities Evaluate patients, determine treatment options Examine patients for audio, balance or ear related issues, diagnose problems, administer treatments
Job Growth (2014-24) 21%*29%*
Median Salary (2015) $73,410*$74,890*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Careers Involving Communicative Disorders Can I Consider?

A speech-language pathologist works with people who cannot produce speech clearly. In such a position, you may work with people who stutter, who have a difficult time with rhythm and fluency of a language, who have cognitive issues such as attention and memorization, or who have difficulty with swallowing. These kinds of disorders are often the result of emotional abuse, accidents or developmental issues, and as a speech-language pathologist you would identify these issues and work with the patient. According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, speech-language pathologists often work in teams with health-care professionals, teachers, psychologists, rehabilitation counselors and audiologists (

An audiologist works with people who have hearing and balance problems. Using audiometers and other computer equipment, you would assess the extent of the damage and provide ways to help patients cope with the loss. These disorders often result from trauma at birth, genetic disorders and exposure to loud noises. As an audiologist you may treat these issues by cleaning the ear canal or providing cochlear implants. You would be expected to counsel patients on listening strategies and how to adjust to hearing loss. You may also manage agencies, clinics and private practices as well as conduct research about hearing disorders.

What Do I Need to Study?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a career as a speech-language pathologist requires at least a master's degree, while a career as an audiologist requires both a license and a doctoral degree (

Most speech-language pathologists receive their bachelor's degree in communicative disorders, and many programs have a graduate program where you can receive a master's degree in speech-language pathology. Depending on the program, they may offer the chance to receive certification from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA).

A career as an audiologist generally requires at least a master's degree, but most jobs expect a doctoral degree combined with certification. Generally you would receive an undergraduate degree in communicative disorders, though some universities may offer a bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology. From here you would obtain a graduate degree and a professional degree in audiology. According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, a graduate degree with an emphasis in audiology allows you to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A), which is issued by the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC) of ASHA (

If you are interested in both career paths, some doctoral degree programs offer a dual Au.D and Ph.D in Speech, Language and Hearing Science.

What Are the Job Outlook and Salary Expectations?

According to the BLS, the employment growth rate for speech-language pathologists is expected to reach 21% and the employment of audiologists is expected to grow 29% from 2014-2024 (

Both speech-language pathologists and audiologists tend to work in a variety of the same settings. Most take jobs in the education system, but also find jobs in hospitals, community clinics, private practice offices, state and federal government agencies and research laboratories.

Also according to the BLS, there are over 135,400 certified speech-language pathologists and as of 2014 there were 13,200 certified audiologists ( According to, speech-language pathologists earned a median annual income of $76,510, and audiologists earned a median annual income of $77,450 as of 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Doctorate degrees are needed for most related communicative disorder careers. These jobs might include being a physical therapist, optometrist or surgeon. Physical therapists work with patients who have developmental issues dealing with muscles and bones. They could work with injuries or elderly patients to help them strengthen those muscles. Optometrists specialize in the eyes and any visual problems. They test and analyze problems. They then recommend treatment or whether glasses or contacts are best. Surgeons may specialize in types of surgeries. Many work exclusively in busy emergency rooms or repair broken bones or are involved in major transplants.

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