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Health & Medical Sciences

People of all ages can be born with, or become afflicted with, a variety of communication disorders that impair their ability to communicate or comprehend verbal on nonverbal cues. That's where the study of communication disorders and communicative disorders come in.

Students who pursue this field -- also known as speech-language pathology -- learn how to assess, diagnose and treat common communication disorders such as stuttering, voice disorders, and cognitive communication impairments.

What do online communication disorders degree programs entail?

Health and medical science programs in communication disorders are typically offered at the bachelor's or master's degree level. Many schools in this field, however, also offer a two-year associate degree program for speech-language pathology assistants.

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At the associate degree level, students will learn the fundamentals of communicative disorder recognition and treatment, as well as basic principles of behavioral management and patient care. Although specific courses may vary depending on the school, colleges and universities tend to cover the following topics at the bachelor's and master's degree level:

  • Phonetics
  • Speech and Language Development
  • Speech and Hearing Science
  • Fluency Disorders
  • Child Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Methods and Procedures
  • Motor Speech Disorders

Many speech-language pathology students choose a specialty or focus depending on their area of interest and future career goals. The following specialties are relatively common among students working toward careers in this field:

  • Adult Neurogenics
  • Auditory Perception and Intervention
  • Bilingualism and Language Variation
  • Language and Literacy
  • Language Processing and Intervention
  • Neurophysiology of Hearing, Speech and Language
  • Speech and Voice Production
  • Speech Perception
  • Translational Neuroscience

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, speech-language pathologists must be licensed to work in almost all states. Some states even require that speech-language pathologists become certified. They can do so by earning a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, notes the BLS.

Career outlook for students in communication disorders degree programs

A population of aging baby boomers could lead to an increase in the need for treatments of speech or language impairments. Because of this, the BLS predicts that employment for speech-language pathologists will increase 19 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations combined. The median annual income for speech pathologists was $70,810 in 2013 according to the BLS.

Here are a few other fields of practice communication disorders graduates can potentially segue into:

  • Audiologists: Audiologists treat patient's hearing and balance problems. Audiologists typically need a doctorate degree in audiology to work in their field according to the BLS. Median annual income for audiologists, according to the BLS, was at $71,170 in 2013. The BLS predicts that employment for audiologists will increase 34 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022.
  • Recreational Therapist: According to the BLS, recreational therapists plan and direct recreation-based activities for people experiencing injuries or illness. Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor's degree and certification from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation.

    BLS numbers place median annual income for recreational therapists at $43,180 in 2013. Due to steady growth in the need for recreational therapists to treat age-related injuries or illnesses, the BLS predicts that employment for these professionals will increase 13 percent nationally from 2012 to 2022.

Boston University, Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, http://www.bu.edu/sargent/academics/programs/speech-language-hearing-sciences/master-of-science-in-speech-language-pathology/
"Audiologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/audiologists.htm#tab-1
"29-1181 Audiologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291181.htm
"Recreational Therapists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm#tab-1
"29-1125 Recreational Therapists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291125.htm
"Speech Language Pathologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm#tab-1
"29-1127 Speech-Language Pathologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 14, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291127.htm
College of Communications, B.A. in Communicative Disorders, http://communications.fullerton.edu/commbackup/undergraduate/bacomdisorders.html
Pasadena City College, Speech Language Pathology Assistant, Two-Year Associate Degree and Certificate Program, http://www.pasadena.edu/divisions/performing-comm/slpa/
University of South Florida, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Area of Specialization, http://csd.cbcs.usf.edu/researchInitiatives/specializations.cfm

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