Although many audiology students enter graduate school with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or speech language hearing sciences, some students find audiology after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in another field. For these students, post-baccalaureate classes are often required for admission to graduate school.
For me, the moment of truth came after the completion of a tour performing in a rock band. I had a bachelor’s degree in music, interests in audio engineering and cochlear implants, and a concern about noise exposure. At the time, I was not sure what my next step in life should be, but after some research and discussions with friends and family, the answer was obvious: I wanted to become an audiologist.
What Is a Post-Baccalaureate Audiology Student?
Post-baccalaureate students have a bachelor’s degree in a field outside of speech language hearing sciences and are working on the prerequisite courses required for entrance to a graduate program in audiology. Starting this year, the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) includes post-baccalaureate students in its undergraduate associate membership category. This unique population of students will strengthen and diversify our membership base.
What Does an Audiology Post-Baccalaureate Program Include?
For prospective audiology students, a post-baccalaureate program can provide an academic foundation in speech, language and hearing processes, and a background orientation to disorders of communication. Many schools that offer undergraduate degrees in communication sciences and disorders and speech language hearing sciences offer post-baccalaureate classes. Post-baccalaureate programs can vary in semester hours, coursework, and duration. Some are local and in-person, and some are online and remote.
Benefits of Pursuing a Post-Baccalaureate
Advising support and mentorship: In most post-baccalaureate programs, students are provided with an advisor who can assist with career guidance and preparation of competitive applications to audiology programs (including audiology-specific letters of recommendation).
Class interconnection: Post-baccalaureate classes can offer students the opportunity to meet and work with other students pursuing coursework to apply for audiology programs.
Downsides to Pursuing a Post-Baccalaureate
No guarantee: Completion of post-baccalaureate coursework does not guarantee admission to graduate programs. It can be a risk for students pursuing a second career.
Financial aid: Many post-baccalaureate programs provide financial aid exclusively through student loans, so students with a bachelor’s degree in another field may find these programs financially prohibitive.
While establishing the new SAA post-baccalaureate student membership category, we turned to some individuals who know and understand this path best: SAA members who have been through the post-baccalaureate process. In an effort to learn more about their paths we asked one question, why audiology?
Computer Scientist Turned Audiologist
Eric Brown already had a successful 16-year career as a computer programmer when he found himself at a crossroads. Unhappy as a programmer, he sought the advice of a career counselor, and decided to make a change. Following a battery of aptitude tests, the results pointed to a career in health care. Eric was hesitant.
“Coming out of high school, I intended to become a family practice physician,” Eric says, “In my first year of medical school, I ended up failing three courses. I dropped out of school before they kicked me out.” Despite these past experiences, Eric quit his job. Inspired by his father’s own journey with amplification and the idea of working with people and technology, Eric began post-baccalaureate coursework at Indiana University. Eric is currently a third-year AuD student at Purdue University. “I find purpose and enjoyment in working with people and making a difference,” says Eric.
Maybe You Would Like Speech–Language Pathology
With a background in human biology and two years of work experience, Hanna Sawher went to a counselor’s office to explore options for a career path that utilized her biology degree. When she asked what human biology could turn into, the answer was “nothing really… except maybe you would like speech pathology,” says Hanna. She had never heard of speech pathology, but after learning that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can work with children, Hanna signed up for post-baccalaureate classes.
Hanna’s first class was Audiology 101. “The professor said, ‘You are all here to become SLPs, but I will turn one of you into a doctor of audiology’,” recalls Hanna. “That one person was me, and from that morning on, I chose audiology.” After two years of post-baccalaureate coursework, Hanna is currently in her fourth year as an AuD student at the University of Wisconsin.
I Want to Help Veterans
After graduating with bachelor’s of science, Julia Slifko was prompted by the events of September 11 to serve on active duty for the United States Air Force. “I intended to make the military my career,” Julia says, “but during my last deployment, this all changed.” In 2011, Julia ran to aide two soldiers during an attack. The next day, Julia was informed both soldiers were alive, and the tourniquet she applied to one of the soldier’s legs had saved his life. “This event and news gave me an epiphany,” says Julia, “I wanted to help veterans full-time in a medical profession.”
Upon learning that hearing loss is one of the most common military service-related injuries, Julia began her path to audiology. After finishing her military enlistment in 2014, Julia enrolled in post-baccalaureate courses at The Ohio State University. Julia is currently pursuing her AuD at the University of Pittsburgh and counts her blessings every day. Her dream is to become an audiologist at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital.
The Post-Baccalaureate Professor Perspective
Dr. Jessica Rossi-Katz, Metropolitan State University of Denver professor, has worked with undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students in speech language hearing sciences. “With respect to post-baccalaureate students,” Dr. Rossi-Katz says “many come in to our prerequisite program intensely focused on a single goal—getting into graduate school. With traditional undergraduate students, there is often more room to explore.” The post-baccalaureate experience goes beyond taking the classes needed to apply for graduate school. It is also about obtaining the experiences needed to take the next step, and sometimes those experiences are just as critical.
The post-baccalaureate process can be difficult, but many students who have made the journey agree that it is worth it, and they are happy to have found audiology.