Speech Pathology Vs. Audiology - Which Career Is Right For You?

Careers in the healthcare industry are typically good choices, as people in these fields tend to be in demand. Two of the relatively high paying options that don't require a medical school degree (although they do still require higher degrees) are speech pathology and audiology. 

The Basics

Audiologists help treat people for hearing or balance issues, while speech pathologists help people with speech and swallowing issues. Both of these professionals also counsel family members and help them understand how best to help their loved ones with their hearing or speech issues. These jobs are somewhat related, as problems with speech are sometimes caused by hearing loss. Speech problems could also be due to autism, developmental delays, brain injury, stroke, cleft palate or Parkinson's disease. Audiologists sometimes specialize in a certain age group, such as geriatrics or pediatrics, or a certain type of issue, such as balance, hearing aids, cochlear implants, or tinnitus.


A career in speech pathology typically requires a master's degree, and most states require these professionals to be licensed as well. The master's degree programs usually last two years and include supervised clinical experience. In some cases, students who have a related bachelor's degree may be able to earn their master's degree more quickly. A doctoral degree will increase job opportunities even further but is mainly needed only by those who want to have a career in education or research. Some states require speech pathologists who work in public schools to have a teaching certification as well as a master's degree.

An audiologist needs to have a doctoral degree in audiology and be licensed by their state. They can get a bachelor's degree in any field before continuing their studies at a 4-year doctoral degree in audiology program. Coursework includes pharmacology, genetics, anatomy, physics, physiology, ethics, communication development, and diagnosis and treatment. Certification can be through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or the American Board of Audiology.


Speech-language pathologists mainly work in health care settings or educational settings. As of 2015, the annual salary for those working in healthcare settings was between $70,000 and $93,000 and those working in educational settings earned between $60,000 and $72,000 per school year. Those just getting starting in an audiology career earn an average of about $65,053 per year, but some more experienced professionals earn $107,574 per year or more.


There is a high demand for professionals in both of these fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for speech-language pathologists is expected to increase by 21 percent between 2014 and 2024, and that for audiologists is expected to increase by 29 percent. This is a much higher than average growth rate. For audiologists, this means there will be about 3,800 new jobs available, and there will be about 28,900 new jobs available for speech-language pathologists. 

If you'd like more information about speech pathology and audiology, reach out to clinics like Eastern Carolina Ear Nose & Throat-Head.