Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs)

Undergraduate Program FAQs

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) is considered one of the premier programs in the United States for training health care professionals and consumers of research in speech-language pathology and audiology. The Department offers an undergraduate program in CSD and a graduate training program in Speech-Language Pathology (M.S. and Ph.D). The following Frequently-Asked Questions about the CSD undergraduate program have been divided into four areas:

FAQs about the profession
FAQs about the CSD Undergraduate Program
FAQs from students in the CSD major
FAQs about graduate schools

FAQs About The Profession

Q. What is a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
SLPs are health care professionals who provide intervention, diagnostic, and therapeutic services to children and adults having a communication disability such as a speech and/or language disorder. SLPs are employed by school systems, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and numerous other health-related systems. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) provides more information for prospective students on their Web site.
Q. What is an audiologist?
Audiologists are health care professionals who provide intervention, diagnostic, and therapeutic services to children and adults having a hearing disability. Audiologists are employed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and in numerous other health related systems. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) provides more information for prospective students on their Web site. The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) also provides information on their website concerning careers in audiology.
Q. What are requirements for becoming a SLP or audiologist?
The requirements for a SLP include an undergraduate and graduate degree (master’s) in CSD, a paid work experience called a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) following the master’s degree, and passing a national examination. Once these requirements are completed, an individual is eligible for a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) in SLP issued by ASHA and a state license to practice speech-language pathology or audiology. The master’s degree must be obtained from a graduate program accredited by ASHA to obtain CCC. If a student does not have an undergraduate degree in CSD, the master’s degree program is typically three rather than two years.
Currently, an audiologist must have a doctoral degree (Au.D.). The Au.D. will require 75 semester hours of post-baccalaureate credit hours and becomes effective for persons who apply for ASHA certification after December 31, 2006. The requirement for an Au.D. is necessary for persons who apply for ASHA certification after December 31, 2001.
Q. Where can I find out more about the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology?
One of the best sources is the internet. The search engine key words would include speech pathology, language pathology, audiology, and speech-language pathology. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national association responsible for many aspects of the profession including certification, public awareness, governmental issues, developing guidelines for practice, publications, and setting standards for the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology. The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) is a professional organization devoted to the profession of audiology. AAA develops guidelines for scope of practice, public awareness, governmental issues, and practice policies for audiologists.
Q. What are the employment opportunities for a SLP or audiologist?
SLP and Audiology are listed in the top ten health care professions in the United States. The job market for both SLPs and audiologists has been holding steady for the last ten years and is expected to increase over the next five years, especially as the baby boomer generation retires.
Q. What is the average salary of a SLP or audiologist?
Opportunities should be particularly favorable for those with an ability to speak a second language, such as Spanish. The median annual earnings for speech-language pathologists was $76,900 in May of 2015 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The median annual earnings for audiologists was $77,420 in May of 2015 according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Q. Will I be able to get a job as a SLP or an audiologist with just a bachelor’s degree in CSD?
The job market is extremely limited for someone with only a bachelor’s degree. This occurs because people with only a bachelor’s degree do not have sufficient academic or clinical training. A master’s degree in CSD is the minimal entry-level degree to work as a SLP, and a doctoral degree (Au.D. or Ph.D.) is required to work as an audiologist in the profession because every state requires that SLPs and audiologists be licensed to practice. Among other things, the requirements for license include a master’s degree. Students thinking about a career as a SLP must be prepared to obtain a master’s degree in CSD. Students thinking about a career in audiology must be prepared to obtain a doctoral degree in audiology.

FAQs About The CSD Undergraduate Program

Q. Where can I find out more about the CSD Undergraduate Program at Penn State?
Further information about the CSD undergraduate program can be found on the CSD Web site, and also is available by contacting Joel Waters, M.A. (814-867-3354, joelwaters@psu.edu) or Carol Miller, Ph.D. (814-865-6213; cam47@psu.edu).
Q. How many credits and how long does it take to complete the CSD undergraduate major?
The major requires a minimum of 120 credits (where a minimum of 45 credits are for General Education courses and a minimum of 54 credits are used to complete course work in the CSD major). Students can finish the degree requirements in four years (eight semesters, no summer sessions) by taking 15–16 credits per semester.
Q. What courses should I take if I want to explore CSD as a major?
Students wishing to explore CSD as a possible major should consider taking one or more of the following courses:
  1. PSU 14 - First-Year Seminar in Communication Sciences and Disorders, 1 credit (can only be taken during first year; counts as the First-Year Seminar Requirement if no other First-Year Seminar has been taken)
  2. CSD 146 - Introduction to Communication Sciences and Disorders, 3 credits
  3. CSD 230 - Introduction to Audiology, 3 credits
  4. CSD 269 - Deafness and Society, 3 credits
Q. How and when should I become a CSD major?
Students should set up an appointment with Joel Waters (814-867-3375, joelwaters@psu.edu) the CSD adviser. Mr. Waters assists undergraduates to change majors or helps Division of Undergraduate Studies students declare a CSD major. Most students declare CSD as their major after they have completed at least 30 credits. Typically, this would be at the beginning of fall semester of their second year. Students who declare CSD as their major after their fifth semester and have not taken any CSD courses typically will not be able to finish the major in four years and may have to go an extra semester or year.

FAQs From Students enrolled In The CSD Major

Q. How do I find out my CSD academic adviser?
Students can log on to LionPath to find out their CSD academic advisor.
Q. When should I relocate to the University Park campus?
Students should relocate to the University Park campus by the beginning of spring semester of their second year or fall semester of their third year. If a student relocates fall semester of their third year, they must have already earned at least 58 credits to graduate in four years. Non–University Park students should take as many General Education requirement courses as possible at their campus, especially ENGL 202A or C. Further, students must contact Joel Waters (814-867-3375; joelwaters@psu.edu), at least one semester prior to relocating to University Park for advising and assistance in course scheduling at University Park.
Q. How do I know which CSD courses to take?
Students must have regular meetings with their adviser to develop their course schedule. Since several CSD courses have to be taken in a sequence and several CSD courses have prerequisites, it is possible that a student’s entire academic plan can be determined at the first meeting with their adviser. However, students are responsible for meeting with their adviser to review their work and develop course schedules.
Q. What is the difference between prescribed and additional courses in the CSD major?
Prescribed courses in the major are those courses that each student must take. The CSD major has 14 prescribed courses. Students must also take additional courses; however, students can select a course within each topic area. The CSD major has four topic areas (statistics, learning theory, child development, and family development). Consequently, students are required to take four additional courses; that is, one from each topic area.
Q. Do I have to take CSD courses in any special order?
Yes. Several CSD courses have to be taken in a sequential order. This occurs because several CSD 300-level courses are prerequisites for CSD 400-level courses.
Q. Can I take a CSD course if I do not have the prerequisite course work?
No. CSD instructors can ask you to leave the class if you do not have the prerequisite course(s).
Q. Which courses should I take as electives?
Students should select their electives with the advice of their adviser. Typical electives include CSD-218 American Sign Language I; SPLED 400 and 403A/B; CI 280; LING 001 and 100; RHS 100 and 300; courses in Human Development and Family Studies; Linguistics; BioBehavioral Health; and/or Psychology. The more courses that a student has in physical and natural sciences, biology, and genetics, the better off they will be when applying to graduate school.
Q. Are CSD courses offered at non–University Park campuses?
One required course in the major (CSD 269) is offered through the World Campus during the fall and spring semesters. Additionally, CSD 146 and CSD 218 are occasionally offered at non-Univeristy Park campuses. All other courses in the CSD major are only offered at the University Park campus.
Q. Are CSD courses offered in the summer?
Some CSD courses may be offered. Students should check with their adviser concerning summer course offerings during the middle of spring semester. Students can also check the list of courses given by the department for any semester or summer session by going to the Registrar’s Web site, www.registrar.psu.edu. It should be noted that summer courses can be canceled at the last minute because of low enrollment.
Q. Can a course count as a General Education requirement as well as a requirement for the major?
Yes. This is a common practice called “double-dipping” or “double-counting.” For example, PSYCH 100 can count as a Gen Ed Social and Behavioral Science, as well as a prescribed course in the CSD major. HDFS 129 or PSYCH 212 can count as a Gen Ed Social and Behavioral Science as well as an additional course in the CSD major. EDPSY 101 or STAT 200 can count as a Gen Ed Quantification as well as an additional course in the CSD major. It should be noted that even though one course can be used to complete two requirements, students do not receive double the credits for the course. Every time that one course counts for two requirements (“double-dipping”), the number of elective credits will increase by the number of credits of the “double-dipped” course.
Q. Do I have to take natural science courses that includes a laboratory?
No. Typically, CSD majors take BISC 2, BISC 4, a Physical Science, and another Natural Science course to fulfill the Natural Science Gen Ed requirement. For certification, ASHA requires 1 human biological science (BIOL or BISC) and 1 physical science (PHYS or CHEM), so students should select courses from these areas. However, CSD students are strongly encouraged to take as many science courses as possible, especially in the area of human biology, anatomy, and physics. Additionally, some SLP and Au.D. graduate programs do require a science laboratory course, so students should research those programs ahead of time.
Q. What courses in the CSD curriculum require a grade of C or better?
University policy requires that each department must designate several courses in its major as "C or better" courses. The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders has decided that all prescribed CSD courses are "C or better." This means that any CSD course in which a student earns a D or F must be repeated.
Q. What happens if I get a D or F in a CSD “C or better" course?
Students who receive a D or F in a prescribed CSD course must repeat the course to earn a grade of C or better. All CSD courses are "C or better." If the student retakes the course and obtains a C or better grade, the credits earned for retaking the course will be applied to the students GPA and the number of credits needed for graduation; however, the credits obtained the first time the course was taken will not count towards the number of credits needed for graduation. This occurs because the same course was taken twice and the Penn State duplicate course rule applies. Further, the first grade and the retake grade will not be averaged into one grade. Each grade will appear on the student’s transcript. If a CSD major receives a grade of F, D, or even a C in a CSD course, it should serve as a very strong warning that the student’s overall GPA and GPA in the major might not be high enough to meet graduate school requirements.
Q. Do I have to complete other course work within the College of Health and Human Development?
No. CSD majors do not have to complete credits of course work within the College of Health and Human Development that are not CSD courses. However, students typically take HDFS 129 and 229 to complete additional requirements for the major.
Q. Do I have to complete the Penn State Intercultural and International Competence (GI) requirement?
Yes. Taking CSD 269 (GI) fulfills this University requirement.
Q. Do I have to complete the Penn State Writing Across the Curriculum requirement?
Yes. Taking CSD 459 fulfills this University requirement.
Q. Which CSD courses are offered every semester?
Typically, all prescribed CSD courses are offered every spring and fall semester. There are some exceptions, however, so it is up to you to contact an adviser.
Q. Should I obtain a minor?
A minor is not necessary, but it can be very helpful. About 15–20 percent of CSD undergraduates obtain a minor in areas such as Human Development and Family Studies, Gerontology, Psychology, Special Education, Health Policy and Administration, Spanish, or another related area. Students interested in obtaining a minor should meet with their CSD adviser as soon as possible to make sure that they have enough elective credits that can be used to complete a minor. Typically, minors require 18 credits in the minor area, where 6 of the 18 credits must be in 400-level courses.
Q. Can I study abroad?
Yes. However, students must plan well in advance and consult with their CSD adviser beforehand. Within the CSD program, students can study abroad any summer session, fall semester, or spring semester after their freshman year. Students typically take some of their General Education courses during their study abroad.
Q. Can I take CSD course(s) at another university and transfer credit to Penn State?
Yes. The Department has a policy concerning the rules and procedures for transferring any course(s) taken at another university into the CSD major. These rules and regulations must be followed. Students should meet with their adviser prior to taking a course at another university to see if it will transfer into the CSD major.
Q. Can I take a General Education course(s) at another university and have credit transferred to Penn State?
Yes. Students should meet with Joel Waters (814-867-3375, joelwaters@psu.edu) to be sure that the General Education course they wish to transfer will be accepted by Penn State. Students can also look up a potential credit transfer by accessing the Penn State Course Transfer Tool (https://www.admissions.psu.edu/my_admissions/tas/).
Once the courses(s) is completed, students should request an official transcript from whichever institution(s) offered the course(s), then send that official transcript to:
Undergraduate Admissions Office
The Pennsylvania State University
201 Shields Building
University Park, PA 16802
Q. Should I do volunteer work or an internship with a SLP or audiologist?
Yes. The more you know about the profession and observe the work of SLPs and audiologists the better. However, undergraduate students cannot practice speech-language therapy or audiology since it is against the law in almost every state. Volunteer work of any type is very good to list on a résumé when applying for graduate school.
Q. Should I get to know CSD faculty and the type of research they are doing?
Yes. The CSD faculty strongly encourages students to visit with them during their office hours. Several CSD faculty allow students to do an independent study with their ongoing research projects.
Q. When and where can I obtain a copy of my Penn State degree audit?
The latest degree audits and other information are available on LionPath.
Q. Should I join the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA)?
Yes. NSSLHA members have monthly meetings concerning topics in CSD, can receive ASHA journals at a very reduced cost, and are entitled to a reduced ASHA membership fee. Also, this is a very good way to meet students already in the major. For more information contact Eileen Kowalski (814-863-3118; EMK15@psu.edu), or Kelly Webb (814-863-3115; KDW5@psu.edu)
Q. Should I join the Penn State Sign Language Organization (PSSLO)?
Yes. The PSSLO has regular meetings and welcomes all students, regardless of sign language ability. Joining the PSSLO is a very good idea for students who want to work with the hearing impaired and deaf. Further, this is a good way to meet students in different majors who have an interest in sign language. For more information contact Sommar Chilton (814-865-6110; SAH152@psu.edu).
Q. Should I join the Penn State Audiology Club?
Yes. The Penn State Audiology Club is a student organization that brings people with a passion for helping the deaf and hard-of-hearing together. This organization has offered many opportunities for its members to get involved in the field of audiology. For more information contact Judith Creuz (814-865-0797; jac54@psu.edu).
Q. Should I be concerned about my overall GPA and GPA in the CSD major?
Yes. At the end of each semester, students must constantly evaluate their overall GPA and GPA in the CSD major. This occurs because entrance into graduate school is very competitive and GPAs are a major criteria used by graduate schools. As a general rule, the higher the GPA, the more likely it is that a student will be admitted to a graduate school. Students with a GPA less than 3.5 or those who have received a C or C+ in CSD courses must be realistic in their expectations for grade improvement, chances of getting into a graduate school, and are strongly encouraged to talk with their adviser.
Q. Can I obtain a Pennsylvania Department of Education Teaching Certificate in Speech-Language Pathology for working as a speech-language pathologist in a Pennsylvania school system?
No. CSD undergraduate students graduating with a bachelor of science degree are not eligible for a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) teaching certificate. The only students recommended for a PDE teaching certificate are those who have completed the CSD master’s degree program and several other requirements. If an undergraduate student wants to be a public school SLP following their master’s degree, they should consider taking the following courses as electives: C I 280, SPLED 400 and 403A/B, and HD FS 129 and 229.

FAQS ABOUT GRADUATE SCHOOLS

Q. How do I find out information about graduate schools in CSD?
The best source is a this website devoted to listing ASHA accredited graduate programs.
Q. What are the requirements for admission into a graduate school in CSD?
Every graduate program has their own requirements. Students should research admission materials for any graduate program they may plan to attend, read the materials very carefully, and determine if they meet or exceed the admission requirements before applying.
As a general rule, most graduate programs require at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, a 3.0 GPA in the major, and/or a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credits taken (some graduate schools require a GPA of at least 3.2–3.5). Most graduate schools also require Graduate Record Examination scores in the top 50% of each test section, as well as greater than 150 on the verbal and quantitative sections and a 4.5 on the writing section, excellent letters of recommendation, and a well-written, strong personal statement or cover letter. Even though a student may have credentials that meet or exceed the requirements of a graduate program, this will not ensure acceptance by that graduate program.
Q. Which graduate schools are the best?
Students should talk to their adviser and several CSD faculty members to get their opinions. U.S. News and World Report also ranks graduate schools.
Q. Where can I find out more about the Penn State graduate program in CSD?
Information about the CSD graduate program can be found at csd.hhdev.psu.edu/graduate.
Q. When do I apply for admission into a graduate program?
Typically, students look up information from several schools during the summer prior to, or early fall semester of their senior year. Students then decide on which graduate programs they are going to apply to and start the application process during the fall semester of their senior year. Typically, all applications are completed by the end of fall semester (though by the beginning of Thanksgiving break is strongly recommended), which is well in advance of most graduate programs’ due dates.
Q. When do I take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?
Typically, students can get an online GRE Information Bulletin or hard copy from the information booth in Kern Building or at the Career Center located on the fourth floor of Boucke. The bulletin lists test dates and other information about the GRE. Students should select test dates so that, if necessary, they can re-take the GRE if they are not satisfied with their scores. For instance, we typically recommend that CSD undergraduates take the GRE for the first time during the summer between their sophomore and junior years, and for a second time during the summer between their junior and senior years. The GRE is a very important requirement for many graduate programs. Thus, it is strongly recommended that students use GRE study guides and/or take advantage of a GRE class or tutor prior to taking the GRE.
Q. Does Penn State accept its own undergraduates into the graduate program?
Yes, provided students met the admission requirements and have credentials that are equal to or exceed applicants from other undergraduate programs.
Q. What can I do if I do not get accepted into a graduate school in CSD?
An undergraduate degree in CSD is a solid foundation for graduate work in other areas including education, special education, counseling, social work, health and human development, vocational rehabilitation, health policy and administration, etc. Further, if a student does not get accepted into a graduate school in CSD, they might wish to sit out a year, take more undergraduate courses to improve their GPA, re-take the GRE, and/or work in a CSD-related field for 1-2 years, then re-apply to graduate schools in CSD or a related profession. Students should also consult the Alternative CSD Career List.