What Does it Take to Become an Audiologist?

An audiologist diagnoses and treats hearing and balance disorders. He or she uses various instruments to measure hearing loss and determine its cause. After making a diagnosis, the audiologist develops a treatment plan that takes into account the impact the disability is having on the patient.

Audiologists are often members of a team of health professionals that includes speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physicians.

Some work primarily with geriatric patients while others specialize in pediatrics.

Quick Facts

  • Median annual earnings, in 2016, were $75,890.
  • In 2016, audiologists held about 23,000 jobs.
  • Most of them work in audiology clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals. Schools employ some.
  • Most jobs are full-time positions and sometimes include weekend and evening hours in order to accommodate patients’ schedules.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a “bright outlook” occupation, a designation it has received because of its excellent job outlook. Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in an Audiologist’s Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for audiologist positions found on Indeed.com:

  • “Provide accurate diagnosis, appropriate referral and active follow-up of all patients”
  • “Determine appropriate assessment tools and strategies and implement appropriate treatment plans for all patients receiving rehabilitative services”
  • “Provide proper care for departmental equipment”
  • “Select and administer the appropriate diagnostic procedures for each patient based on age and performance ability”
  • “Generate patient reports and other paperwork needed for patient care”
  • “Fit and dispense prospective clients with an appropriate make and model of hearing aid technology and product based on their hearing loss situation”
  • “Program hearing aids using a computer”
  • “Identify impairments and dysfunction of auditory, balance, and other related systems”
  • “Provide cochlear implant programming”

Education, Licensure, and Certification

To practice as an audiologist, you will need to earn a Doctor of Audiology degree or Au.D. This usually takes four years after first earning a bachelor’s degree. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests that a candidate’s undergraduate education consist of a strong “arts and sciences focus … with course work in linguistics, phonetics, psychology, speech and hearing, mathematics, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences” (ASHA. Fact Sheet for Audiology).

Not all graduate programs are equal. Do a bit of research before you choose one since some states will not give a license to an individual who has not graduated from an audiology program that is accredited by The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). You can check the licensing requirements of the state in which you want to practice before you select a school. Visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website to see the state-by-state directory of licensing requirements and contact information.

All 50 states have licensure requirements for audiologists. They vary by state, but, as discussed earlier, to become licensed, you will need a Doctorate in Audiology, and in some cases, it must be granted by an accredited program.

ASHA offers the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A), a voluntary certification. To be eligible to apply, you must have an Au.D. from a CAA-accredited program and pass the Praxis Exam in audiology, a national test administered by the Education Testing Service (ETS). Alternatively, you can, if you choose, get certified by the American Board of Audiologists (ABA). This voluntary certification stipulates that applicants must have a doctorate and pass a national exam. ABA also offers specialty certification in cochlear implants and pediatric audiology.

What Soft Skills Do Audiologists Need?

In addition to your formal training, you will need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field. They are:

  • Verbal Communication: You must be able to convey information, for example, test results or a recommendation for equipment or treatment, to your patients. You also need to communicate well with your colleagues.
  • Compassion: It is important that your patients feel you care about their well-being.
  • Interpersonal Skills: You must be able to establish rapport with patients and make them feel comfortable.
  • Critical Thinking: Critical thinking skills will allow you to compare various treatment options and predict which one will have the best outcome.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

What qualities do employers want the audiologists they hire to have? Here are some requirements we found in actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • “Desire to educate patients about hearing and hearing loss”
  • “Ability to work unsupervised or with minimal supervision”
  • “Computer proficiency in word processing/typing, basic application and hardware functions”
  • “Ability to follow instructions and base decisions on current policies”
  • “The ability to interact professionally at all times with patients, physicians, and team members”
  • “Desire to learn and upgrade clinical skills”