For many students, the prospect of graduation can mean several things—the end of their tenure in academia, or perhaps the beginning of a fulfilling, lifelong career. If you ask me, I am looking forward to the focus on clinical service provision in contrast to meeting capstone deadlines, writing term papers, and studying for examinations. In reality, however, as a health-care professional, you have committed yourself to lifelong learning because audiology is a profession that is founded upon evidence-based practice. By providing evidence-based diagnostic and treatment services, you offer to your patients reliable, effective, high-quality health care. Thus, in a way, you become a student for life. 

As industry, technology, and hearing health care continue to evolve, it is much to your benefit as an audiologist to also practice continuous quality improvement—holding yourself to high standards, committing to being the hearing expert, and adapting to the needs of your patients and the market. One method to demonstrate this commitment to excellence and lifelong learning comes in the form of voluntary specialty certifications. In particular, the American Board of Audiology (ABA) has created two specialty certifications in pediatrics and cochlear implants that allow passionate professionals to set themselves apart from other general practitioners. 

The Cochlear Implant Specialty Certification (CISC) and Pediatric Audiology Specialty Certification (PASC) are awarded through a meticulous evaluation process, which mandates the ability to pass a rigorous examination and a minimum number of years practicing as an audiologist. Audiologists who have obtained the CISC and/or PASC have acquired advanced knowledge in their respective areas of focus and have demonstrated themselves as experts in pediatric audiology and/or cochlear implants. These specialty certifications, although not a guarantee of any particular skill or competency, exemplify a dedication to high standards, ongoing education, and best practices. 

As a soon-to-be or recent graduate, you might be looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. Whereas licensure is required of us to practice audiology, specialty certification is voluntary—the decision to obtain this title is up to you. By pursuing these designations, you are signaling to your peers, patients, and potential employers your pledge to high-quality hearing health care. Obtaining the PASC and/or CISC is certainly not a task that can be completed overnight. As mentioned previously, the evaluation process is challenging and requires passion, persistence, and patience—but it is certainly not impossible. Are you up for the challenge? 

Dr. Shelley Moats, AuD, PASC, member-at-large on the American Board of Audiology Board of Governors, and Fellow of the Academy, shared her insight on the specialty certification.

Arun Joshi: Why did you pursue a specialty certification? 

Shelley Moats: For me, the PASC is a rigorous mechanism to demonstrate knowledge  in the field of pediatric audiology. To adequately serve kids and families, the breadth and depth of required knowledge is astounding. The scoring mechanism indicated relative areas of strength and weakness, which I could then use as a tool to increase my capacity to serve. 

What are the benefits of pursuing specialty certification? More importantly, what are your perceived benefits? 

I am currently the only PASC recipient in the state of Kentucky. Families know this and gravitate towards our agency as a result – they know that they can expect nothing less than best practice care from our staff. Referral sources are also aware of this and I believe it has impacted the number of referrals we receive. In general, pediatric audiologists should strive to earn the PASC credential because it demonstrates a commitment to excellence and expertise in the field. Kids are not little adults, and most AuD programs do not have a sufficient pediatrics focus/experience component for new graduates to come out as “experts” in this area. For those interested in a career in pediatric audiology, the PASC requirements provide a framework for gathering the necessary knowledge and experience. 

For new graduates who might be interested in pursuing specialty certification what advice or insight could you offer? 

I feel the PASC sets me apart from other providers of pediatric audiology services in my area because I’m not simply calling myself a “pediatric audiologist”—I have actually demonstrated that I have the knowledge and skills to best serve this very special population. Preparing for and taking the exam was a great learning opportunity for me, as well. As a profession, we need to hold certifications that are rigorous and meaningful—that is an important way of demonstrating our value in hearing health care.

For more information about specialty certification, check out the ABA website.