Become a speech-language pathologist: Tips for CSD majors

October 9, 2020

What kind of degree do I need to be a speech-language pathologist?

The ultimate goal for an undergraduate who wants to be a speech-language pathologist is to be accepted into a speech-language pathology master’s program that is accredited by the  American Speech, Language, Hearing Association’s Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) Professional candidates also need licensing within their state. 

But first, you’ll need a major in communications sciences and disorders (CSD) or a similar undergraduate program at a college offering the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. 

With a CSD major, you'll learn about communication problems related to speech, language, hearing and cognitive function and their assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Eventually you might focus on children or older individuals, or maybe you'll work in a setting where you serve individuals of all ages. 

What kind of school is best for studying communication sciences and disorders?

No matter what major you're pursuing, it’s a good idea to research a variety of schools—from large regional universities to smaller colleges. The more you research and visit, the greater the chance you’ll find what matters the most to you and your future. 

Some might think that a field like CSD/speech-language pathology requires a lot of technical knowledge and hands-on practice. While that’s true, communication sciences and disorders students also benefit from a broad background in the physical, psychological, societal and emotional aspects of human communication. And that’s why a four-year liberal arts college can be perfect fit. 

Augustana College is a highly ranked college of the liberal arts and sciences with a unique, established and well-balanced CSD program. Our first-year course, Introduction to Communication Sciences and Disorders, will set you on your path for a major in CSD.

If you start college still wondering about your major, then our 100-level Human Communication and Its Disorders is the place to start. 

What exactly can I do with my speech-language pathology degree?

Along with careers in speech language pathology and audiology, a CSD graduate can pursue many other career paths. Graduates interested in other healthcare roles might become technicians in surgery or radiation, an administrator of health services or public policy, or a public health and intervention specialist. 

Outside healthcare-related positions, CSD graduates make excellent educators. Specific areas include special education, school counseling and administration, early intervention, pre-school, teachers of English Language Learners, and education for deaf and hard of hearing students. 

Many more possible career paths include, among others:

  • Development, promotion and sales of clinical, education and healthcare materials
  • Coach for actors and vocalists
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Community outreach, family services or social worker
  • Art therapist
  • Autism spectrum disorders specialist
  • Vision/orientation/mobility therapist
  • Interpreter for the deaf

Graduates with a background in speech-language pathology also have continued their education to become a registered nurse, physician’s assistant or occupational therapist. Augustana offers undergraduate pre-professional programs in each of these areas, too, so at Augie you’ll have the opportunity to consider related fields.  

CSD and speech-language pathology at Augustana College

Every year, nearly 100% of Augustana graduates who apply to master’s programs are admitted, and half of them receive teaching or research fellowships. Being offered a fellowship not only cuts back on costs, it’s acknowledgement of the excellent undergraduate education our majors receive at Augustana. 

Being admitted into graduate SLP programs is extremely competitive. So why do nearly 100% of Augustana CSD majors continue on to accredited graduate programs? 

One big reason is that our undergraduate students are taught, supervised and supported by exceptional faculty not only in class, but through substantial clinical experience, research and service learning in the community. Each of these opportunities is important to becoming a well-educated, skilled and caring speech-language pathologist.

To quote Dr. Allison Haskill of Augustana’s CSD department, we believe “Communication is a fundamental human right. How we work to restore communication informs a lot of our purpose.”

About half of majors’ learning experience is in class, and half is in clinical experience. Both our undergraduates and master’s students can get clinical experience working with clients in Augustana’s newly expanded Barbara A. Roseman Center for Speech, Language, and Hearing in Brodahl Hall on campus. 

Completed in 2020, the $3.5-million Brodahl Hall expansion means Augustana students work in a state-of-the-art facility. Some special features include: a specialty clinic that houses a sensory room for children on the autism spectrum, a transgender voice clinic, and ultrasound technology for speech therapy; a full-service audiology clinic; six research labs;  an observation room; technology allowing professors to supervise and coach student clinicians in real time; and conference rooms and spaces that enable  breakout sessions and seminars.

Augustana’s clinic has been providing invaluable training for students and serving the Quad-Cities community for nearly 80 years. The large, economically and linguistically diverse Quad Cities (pop. 450,000) is an ideal location for learning. Augustana CSD majors also get clinical experience through internships on campus and off.

And the liberal arts setting and mindset will give you valuable perspective for your future work. The value of community outreach, focus on ethics and “big idea” issues will be a huge benefit to you and your future clients. 

What can I do for my CSD major, besides coursework and clinical work?

No matter where you go to school for your B.A. in CSD or a related field, you will want hands-on learning experience even beyond the clinical work you do as an undergraduate. Look for schools that have the facilities and support for your original research related to speech and language disorders. You also should value opportunities to work with people in the community.

Augustana’s CSD majors complete substantial Senior Inquiry research projects, working with a favorite professor. For more than 25 years, our CSD majors have presented their research at professional conferences and annual state conventions—which stands out on graduate school applications and resumes. 

At Augustana, you’ll have opportunities for ethical leadership and service in the community. For example, as part of your clinical classwork—and along with providing therapy to clients with communication disorders—you might do hearing screenings for refugees, literacy tutoring, or present information about how to create a language-rich environment for  at-risk expectant mothers.

On campus, you can get involved in the active student Speech-Language-Hearing Association group. This group is all about activities of all kinds—there’s really something for everyone. (Speaking of which, there are also about 150 other student groups on campus.)

While Augustana CSD majors have excellent advising to prepare them for graduate school, you also can visit CORE (Careers, Opportunities, Research, Exploration) on campus for career coaching, help with graduate school applications and résumés, internships, study abroad, and more. 

Every student has access to $2,000 Augie Choice funding to support a standout learning experience such as research, an internship or study abroad. About half of Augustana’s CSD majors do study abroad, choosing from one of the college’s many options, and can use their $2,000 Augie Choice to help with expenses. 

Now what?

If you're looking for an excellent undergraduate learning experience in CSD—with the added attraction of continuing on with the MS-SLP working with professors you know well, and in brand new facilities on a gorgeous campus along the Mississippi River—it would be smart to add Augustana College to your short list.  
If you’d like to learn more about studying CSD at Augustana, or any of our other ~90 majors, minors and related programs of study, you can start here.