The Au.D. Dilemma: By the Numbers

Hearing Health & Technology Matters
November 13, 2013

Editor’s Note: Shortly following my post a few weeks ago, AuD Dilemma, I posed this question on the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) discussion board: “Is it Time to Embrace Pre-Audiology for AuD Program Entry?” While there were several responses, I thought Dr. Barry Freeman’s response was worth sharing today, and he was kind enough to allow me to publish his comments.


Barry Freeman, Ph.D.

Barry Freeman, Ph.D.

This is a relevant and timely topic. It brings to mind the opening keynote comments by Dr. Lucille Beck at the AAA Gold Standards Educational Conference in 2009. Lu noted, “Our universities…are the key to our future. They control excellence and set the stage for practice of the next generation.

You raise the question about undergraduate major/minor: Maybe that’s just a part of the critical questions that we need to be addressing as a profession.



Let’s first look at some facts:


  • Demographic data since the early 1980s reveal that 41% of graduating audiologists leave the profession within a decade of graduation. That’s higher than other healthcare professions and it’s too early to know whether this attrition rate will continue with the Au.D. (Windmill and Freeman, 2013).1
  • 44% of current Au.D. students doubt their decision to become an audiologist (Bennett and Steiger, 2010).2
  • 27% of Au.D. students dropped out of the AuD program between 2011-12 and annual drop-out rates have been averaging 18%-20%. So, while programs are enrolling 9.5-10 students per year, they are graduating 7.0-7.3 per year (Higher Education Data Services, 2013).3
  • 89% of Au.D. students have an undergraduate Communication Sciences/Disorders (CSD) degree and, for those that do not, programs add an additional 1-2 semesters to the AuD program to “level” the students (Higher Education Data Services, 2013).

No question there is [still] a belief that CSD is the best major to prepare students for the Au.D. Otherwise, why are the overwhelming majority of AuD students recruited from undergrad CSD programs?

Yet, in medicine, “students are not considered to be at a disadvantage for having bypassed standard Pre-Med requirements”–D. Muller, MD, Chair of Medical Education, Mt. Sinai.4


So, how are we doing?


We have high drop-out rates, high attrition, and the lingering question of whether we are preparing graduates for success in the profession. So, besides looking at the undergraduate major, we also should take a close look at student recruitment and the criteria used to admit and enroll them in our programs?


So, then, who is really doing the recruitment of students for AuD programs?  Do they share the vision of professional autonomy for Audiology and identify/admit students who can meet the current and future challenges facing the profession?


We do know certain facts about academic programs:

Do those recruiting Au.D. students share in ? Image courtesy Drexel Univ

Who are the recruiters of Au.D. programs? Do they share the vision of professional autonomy for Audiology? Image courtesy Drexel University

  • All but a handful of AuD programs are housed within a CSD program.
  • A recent study revealed that the undergrad CSD major was the 8th worst major in terms of economic value of all college majors (Carnevale et al., 2013).5
  • We also know a majority of Au.D. programs (56%) are located in non-professional Schools of Education, Humanities, and Graduate Education, where admission criteria might differ from programs housed in professional schools. (Higher Education Data Services, 2013)
  • We also know the prevailing belief in CSD programs is that Audiology and Speech Language Pathology are a part of a Single Discipline of Communication Disorders and the belief that applicants share common goals, talents, and characteristics.  There is a “discipline-wide approach to education…this is integral to our view of the interrelationships of professions in CSD and consistent with CSD education in this country.”  (ASHA CAA, 2011)6
  • We know that research using “Talent Assessments” reveal that the talents and characteristics of audiologists match more closely to those of physicians, dentists, and optometrists, while SLP matches closely to PT, OT, and Special Education teachers (Holland Codes).7

While curriculum for undergrad education is an important discussion, it also is time to question our recruitment strategies and admission criteria.


“A profession that selects and develops people with consideration to their talents and passion will likely gain a strong competitive advantage.” (Gallup, Inc., 2010)8


The Looming, Unanswered Questions:


1) Are we recruiting students who will make a long-term commitment to the profession and not leave within a decade?

2) Are we identifying and admitting students with the characteristics necessary to achieve success in the profession of Audiology?

3) Are we meeting the current and future needs of our profession?




  1. Windmill, I.M. and Freeman, B.A., Demand for audiology Services:  30-year projections and impact on academic programs. J. American Academy of Audiology Vol. 24, 5: 2013.
  2. Bennett HN, Steiger JR. (2009) Au.D. student attitudes toward the profession: a 2002 survey repeated in 2009. Audiol Today 22(6):53–63.
  3. Higher Education Data Systems (2013)
  4. Carnavale, A., Strohl, J., and Melton, M.  (2013).  What’s it worth? The economic value of college majors. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
  5. American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Council on Academic Accreditation (2011).
  6. This was first noted in our profession by Carol Flexer in her presidential address and later published in Audiology Today in 1996. Holland Code Audiology assessments can be found on several websites, such as: and
  7. Gallup, Inc. (2010). State of the American Workplace.


*Featured Image courtesy


birdsong hearing benefits
  1. Wow, these statistics are absolutely frightening! Audiology leaders should be worried.

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