An audiologist is a person who works with people who have hearing problems or balance issues related to hearing or inner ear conditions. After assessing the conditions which are causing the patients problems, they then work with the patient to manage the condition or conditions.
As the population ages, there has been an increase in the number of audiologists working with older people who are more prone to illnesses and medications that cause hearing problems.
The regulations currently require Audiologists to obtain a Master’s Degree in Audiology. However currently there is a change in process which will require audiologists to have a Doctoral degree in audiology. In addition, the audiologist must receive a passing grade on the national audiology exam. Other requirements include a minimum of 300 hours of supervised clinical practice and approximately nine months of post graduate professional experience. As of 2005, there were 24 Master’s Degrees and 62 clinical doctoral degrees offered through accredited universities and colleges.
Audiologists usually work in a comfortable and clean environment. The job is usually not physically demanding however requires close concentration and attention to detail. An audiologist may find themselves dealing with the emotional needs of patients and their families which can be very demanding as well. Many audiologists work a typical 40 hours per week but this may include weekends and evenings to accommodate the needs of their patients. Some also work on a contractual basis, traveling between facilities to perform regular hearing tests on factory workers and others.
Average earnings of audiologists was reported around $51,470 in May 2004. According to a survey by the American Speech Language Hearing Association, full time certified audiologists working on a calendar year basis was around $56,000 per year whereas those who work on an academic year basis earn around $53,000 annually. Starting salary for a certified audiologist with at least one year experience but not more than three years was about $45,000 per year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Employment and Job Opportunities
In 2004, about 10,000 audiologist jobs were available and filled. Nearly half of these jobs were in physician’s offices, in hospitals and outpatient care facilities. One in seven audiologists held a position in educational facilities such as elementary and secondary schools. Other available positions included positions in health and personal care stores which include hearing aid suppliers, scientific research centers and state and local government facilities. A very small number of audiologists were self employed in private practice. These self employed audiologists work on a contractual basis providing testing for schools, factories or other facilities or have their own offices separate from other entities.
Employment opportunities for audiologists are expected to grow proportional to all other occupations through the year 2014. As requirements change regarding the screening for hearing loss and early intervention, the need for audiologists will begin to increase. As the population ages and medical advancements continue to increase the life span of older adults, the number of people requiring treatment for hearing loss or balance issues will also increase. Also, as the survival rate for trauma victims as well as premature infants increase, the need for screening and treatment of this group will also increase.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
As greater awareness about hearing loss is achieved, the need for more audiologists for screening and treatment will also increase. Many states in the United States now require all newborns be screened for hearing loss and receive treatment as early intervention for any hearing loss, which will lead to an increase in employment for audiologists. As enrollment in elementary and secondary schools increase, so will the need for more audiologists for screening and treatment. Enrollment in special education services also is increasing, some of which require specialized education due to hearing issues. In addition, there is an increase in the demand for audiologists who work on a contractual basis in schools and other private institutions.
As with any medical field, growth in the audiology field will be held in check by limits on insurance payments for services which they provide. The increased educational requirements that are currently underway is thought to also decrease the number of available workers in the audiology field. This in turn may result in higher salary requirements for audiologists. However, the higher salary needs of audiologists may result in physicians and others hiring lower wage technicians to provide the required services that audiologists would normally provide. Because the field is a very small one, very few job openings will be created by older audiologists leaving their positions as they retire.
For those with an education in audiology, there are a few other careers which they may find employment. Speech therapists often have an audiology background. This provides an understanding of issues affecting speech as it relates to hearing. Speech and language pathologists fall into that category as well.
If you aren’t able to find any schools that offer these programs located near you, you may want to consider other programs available. The healthcare industry has many careers to offer. Some of the more popular programs are: Medical Assisting, Occupational Therapy, or Health Administration.