Have you been told that you have a sharp sense of hearing? Do you have a desire to help people hear better and live their lives to the full? If the answer to both those questions is “yes”, then you need to consider a career as an audiologist! Audiologists use their medical expertise and training to identify and treat hearing problems. The responsibilities of an audiologist include reviewing the patient’s medical histories, diagnosing hearing problems, determining the right course of treatment, handling hearing aids or cochlear implants, and providing education/counseling to the families of hearing-impaired patients.
With one in five Americans over the age of twelve years dealing with some kind of hearing problem, there is an acute need for qualified audiologists. This need is set to grow in the future as well. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will increase by 37 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is far higher than the average growth rate for all occupations. However, since this is a small specialty profession, only 4,800 new jobs will be added. Factors driving the growing demand for audiologists include the aging population in the US, a greater focus on early intervention in society, a desire and for better hearing aids and related medical devices.
The training period lasts approximately eight years after graduating from high school. Aspiring audiologists will need to first earn a high school diploma followed by an undergraduate degree, which lasts approximately four years. Your bachelor’s degree program may be in any field although a focus on biology, linguistics or speech and hearing may ultimately prove helpful in later education as well as professional life. After completing the undergraduate program, you will need to apply to a graduate program in order to earn a doctoral degree in audiology, which takes another four years. Coursework typically covers abnormal communication development, anatomy, physiology, and diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems. The curriculum includes a component of clinical work which allows students to gain extremely valuable real world experience in the field. After earning a doctoral degree, you will need to consider certification. While not absolutely necessary, certain employers may require a certification of clinical competence in audiology, which can be obtained from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Licensing, on the other hand, is mandatory. Depending on the state an audiologist wants to work in, the requirements for obtaining a license may differ.
While becoming an audiologist requires a substantial investment of time, it does not always have to mean a huge financial investment as well. The US is home to a number of affordable colleges where budding audiologists can get an excellent education. For example, an out-of-state student enrolled in the undergraduate program at Eastern New Mexico University Main Campus pays an annual sum of USD 17,285, which is far lower than most other institutions. Nationally, the average annual cost for such a degree is USD 34,461 for an out-of-state student. Other colleges that offer affordable bachelor’s degree programs in audiology include the University of Central Arkansas (USD 20,090), Idaho State University (USD 27,956), Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (USD 27,487), and Southern University and A & M College (USD 17,477). Tuition and fees for in-state students are even lower. For instance, at Minnesota State University Moorhead, in-state students are charged USD 15,748 while out-of-state students pay USD 22,646.