A ‘Guaranteed’ 5-Year Master’s Degree

In Speech-Language Pathology

Mikael D.Z. Kimelman, Ph.D.

Duquesne University

The Speech-Language Pathology Department at Duquesne University offers a five-year program of study leading to a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Furthermore, when students are admitted to the program, whether as freshmen or as later transfers, they are guaranteed a seat in the program through completion of the Master’s degree. In order to retain their seats, students must continually meet academic and professional standards. As background, the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Duquesne University is a relatively new program. The University admitted the first students to the major in September of 1996. The first faculty member, the Department Chair, came on board in January of 1997. Since that time we have hired a full complement of faculty, designed and built new space for the Department and Clinic, put together and implemented our current curriculum, and initiated an in-house Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic offering our students a full range of clinical experiences. Because we are so new I cannot speak to you about our long traditions and I cannot give you data about our successful graduates. What I can do a little bit of now, and in greater detail during the discussion groups that follow, is tell you about what we are currently doing, how we are doing it, how we think it is going, and what we think the future holds.

There are two themes that I will address right now.

1. The implementation of the five-year model

2. Guaranteed matriculation

I would like to present two basic premises that I think we can all agree upon. These premises form a partial basis for explaining why we believe the five-year model and guaranteed matriculation are good ideas.

Premise 1: The cost of education is high and increasing steadily.

Question: Are salaries for clinical speech-language pathologists keeping pace with the cost of a master’s degree?

Premise 2: The competition for admission to graduate school in SLP is crushing.

Question: How many solid qualified students, who would make excellent clinicians, do not get into graduate school?




The Educational Model

At Duquesne University the five-year master’s degree program is divided into a three-year pre-professional phase followed by a two-year professional phase. In terms of academic semesters this involves eight undergraduate semesters (two per calender year) followed by four graduate semesters (three per calendar year). Thus, for registration purposes the first two professional phase semesters are at the undergraduate level. The six professional phase semesters, two undergraduate and four graduate, are all taught at the graduate level. The professional phase, in its entirety, is equivalent to a traditional two-year masters degree program. (Note: At the end of the eight undergraduate semesters students earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Science with the Master of Speech-Language Pathology awarded at the end of the five-year program.)

As part of this five-year curriculum we tell students who enter as freshmen, or who transfer into the major during the pre-professional phase, that if they meet criteria we will guarantee them a seat in the professional phase of the program. There is no application process, GRE’s are not required, nor do they need to submit letters of recommendation. As long as they do their part and meet criteria there is a seamless transition from the pre-professional to the professional phase of the program. Our goal is to admit a full complement of freshmen and five years later to have them graduate with the masters degree.

There are many benefits to this approach. These include:

There are also some negatives to this approach:

In summary, I think this is one viable approach to educating speech-language pathologists that strives for increasing cost effectiveness and fairness. In our discussion groups or later during this meeting I hope we will have time to touch on some of these topics. I look forward to your comments and feedback.