Best Careers 2009: Audiologist

US News

Overview. One-on-one helping careers are among the most pleasant. And this one offers the promise that over your career, the tools to help patients will get better and better. Already, today's computer-controlled hearing aids are more effective and enjoyable than traditional ones. America's most famous user: Bill Clinton. Another plus for this profession is that you'll often get out of the office. You might spend part of your day in a hospital clinic, part in a school, and part at a hearing aid store. If you're bright and ambitious, you might even be on a research team developing the next generation of hearing aids.

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Yet another advantage is that audiology is an under-the-radar career -- few people consider it, so competition isn't as keen as it might be. You'd think demand for audiologists would be rapidly increasing, with all the aging boomers and the increased special-education testing of children. But increasingly, lower-salaried ear technicians do much of what audiologists do. So, job growth in this small profession (13,000 people nationwide) is expected to be just average. The education requirement isn't, however: Now, a doctor of audiology degree is required.

A Day in the Life. Your first patient is a severely deaf child who has just been fitted with a surgically implanted cochlear implant, a device that bypasses the ear and sends signals directly to the auditory nerve. Your job is to optimize the device for the child's needs and train the child how to interpret the sounds -- they're different from sounds heard by the ear. Your second patient is an 80-year-old having trouble retaining his balance. You examine him and provide an analysis that will help his physician determine the cause. Most of your patients, though, are children and older adults with limited hearing loss. You counsel them about hearing aids and in some cases deliver the good news that the only treatment required is removing their excess earwax.

Salary Data

Median (with eight years in the field): $62,200

25th to 75th percentile (with eight or more years of experience): $57,700-$81,200

Note: With the now required Au.D. and/or C.C.C.-A certifications, salaries are often $85,000 or more.

(Data provided by PayScale.com)

Training

  • U.S. News ranks audiology training programs.
  • EdFind is a search engine that finds well-suited training programs. Some of the largest are Washington University in St. Louis, Northeast Ohio Au.D. Consortium, San Diego State/University of California-San Diego, James Madison University (Virginia), University of Florida, University of North Carolina, A.T. Still University (Arizona), and Nova Southeastern University (Florida).

Smart Specialty

Developing hearing-loss-prevention programs in factories and other loud workplaces

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