Three versus Four Year AuD Educational Programs
It is the position of the American Academy of Audiology that the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree awarded by educational institutions should conform to the descriptions of clinical "first professional degrees" published by the United States Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov). Educational programs for the Au.D. degree that are not consistent with this definition should not receive accreditation.
The transition from the Master's degree to the Au.D. degree as the "first-professional degree" in audiology is rooted in the conviction that the educational models adopted approximately 40 years ago are inadequate to support the needs of individuals served by audiologists. The United States Department of Education describes first-professional degrees in clinical fields of Dentistry, Medicine, Optometry, Osteopathy, Pharmacy, and Podiatry as requiring 4 years of study following undergraduate preparation.
The four-year design is not arbitrary, but was put into place on the basis of the collective experience of the health care professions that are held in high esteem. The vast majority of residential programs leading to the Au.D. degree require four years of study after completion of a baccalaureate degree. The recent emergence of Au.D. programs that require only three years of post-baccalaureate education and clinical training is likely to create confusion among prospective students, licensing boards, and the public. The consequences of the departure of the three-year programs from the United States Department of Education descriptions of first professional degrees represent a significant threat to the progress that the profession of Audiology is making to achieve autonomy from other healthcare professions.