What can I do with my undergraduate degree in CSD?

Karin L. Johnson, M.A.
Augustana College (Rock Island, IL)

 Earl Seaver, Ph.D.
Northern Illinois University

When students declare a major in Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD), most, if not all, are planning to become audiologists or speech-language pathologists.  Within the past few years, however, faculty at Augusta College and Northern Illinois University have noted an increase in the number of students who decide not to pursue graduate school in either area.  In some instances, the students do not have grade points that will enable them to pursue graduate work; others, for a variety of reasons, decide to pursue a career in a related field.

Because faculty in both academic settings were convinced that the major in Communication Sciences and Disorders provides students with outcomes that will lead to success in many professions, methods were developed to work with those students who do not pursue graduate study in CSD.  Today, we share the plans developed at Augusta and Northern Illinois.
The Augusta Plan

A number of years ago, faculty were concerned when some of our students were not admitted to graduate school in audiology or speech-language pathology.  We were unprepared.

What was our role?  Should we be proactive and attempt to help these students?  After significant discussion, faculty chose not to have a grade-point minimum for the major.  In large part, this decision was based on a premise that the CSD  major was not restricting; students who had chosen not to go to graduate school as well as those who pursued graduate school in other areas were successful in the occupations they chose to pursue.  We already had had some students who had chosen to pursue the major without intending to pursue graduate work in either profession.  In fact, those students (even those who had struggled to maintain a minimal grade-point average in CSD) were often at the top of their classes in other areas.

Faculty decided that our role should continue to be inclusive – to help all of our students.  Now, however, we faced a dilemma. While we felt competent to help those pursuing the fields in which we were knowledgeable, we needed help advising those students not planning to pursue these areas.  Fortunately, it was about this time that we obtained and began sharing a handout prepared for NSSHLA that listed possible occupations a student majoring in CSD might pursue.  While the handout has been modified a number of times, as I prepared for this program I questioned whether it reflected the occupations that students pursued.  Was there information available that could help us develop a handout that was reflective of what students were doing?

I consulted three sources:  data relating to graduates majoring in CSD at Augustana, data obtained from a survey conducted by the National Academy of Preprofessional Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (NAPP), and information from an Augustana career counselor were analyzed.

Augustana.  Data on students who had graduated with a major in CSD from Augustana in the past five years (from 1995-1999) and had pursued graduate work were analyzed.  Approximately 96% had pursued graduate studies in audiology or speech-language pathology; the remainder (3.8%) had enrolled in graduate school to pursue degrees in vocational rehabilitation, deaf education, and library science.  Graduates who did not attend graduate school (approximately 6%) had pursued employment in business, in a school setting, and in day care.

NAPP.  Analysis of the 1998 NAPP survey sent to program directors of undergraduate-only programs (41.3% response rate) revealed that approximately 93% of the students who graduated in 1998 were admitted into graduate programs.  Eighty percent of those students were admitted to CSD graduate programs. While no data were collected to indicate the areas the remaining 13% pursued at the graduate level, data were available on those not pursuing a graduate education.  Graduates who did not attend graduate school accepted positions in education (e.g., special education, assistant SLP) and in business (e.g., sales, insurance).

Career Center.  The Career Center counselor with whom I worked stated that he advises students not pursuing graduate work in speech-language pathology or audiology to look at professions that fall under the Holland Theme codes (Gottfredson & Holland) that characterize these professions.  He explained the derivation of the codes.  After taking the Strong Interest Inventory  (1994), an inventory designed to help students identify college majors or careers that they may find interesting, students receive a code comprised of three of the following letters: (I) investigative, (A) artistic, (S) social, (E) enterprising, (C) conventional, and (R) realistic.

The theme codes that characterize audiologists and speech-language pathologists follow.


Audiologists, in the order listed, are described as:
•  investigative (I)
   interests:  science, theories, ideas, data
   work activities:  performing lab work, solving abstract problems,  researching
   potential skills:  math, writing, analysis
   values:  independence, curiosity, learning
•  social (S)
   interests:  people, team work, human welfare, community service
   work activities:  teaching, explaining, helping
   potential skills:  people skills, verbal ability, listening, showing understanding
   values:  cooperation, generosity, service to others
•  realistic (R)
   interests:  machines, tools, outdoors
   work activities:  operating equipment, using tools, building, repairing
   potential skills:  mechanical ingenuity and dexterity, physical coordination
   values:  traditional, practicality, common sense

Students not interested in pursuing graduate work in audiology may be interested in pursuing another occupation with this theme code.  The following require at least a college degree:
biologist  dentist
dermatologist dietician, research
food technologist mineralogist
ophthalmologist osteopathic physician
paleontologist petrologist
physician, head psychologist, experimental
safety engineer sanitarian (professional and kindred)
acupressurist airport engineer
cardiopulmonary technologist chief chiropractor 
documentation engineer food tester
laboratory technician veterinary nurse, private duty
optometrist transportation engineer
Speech-language pathologists

Speech-language pathologists, in the order listed, are described as:
 •  social (S)
    interests:  people, team work, human welfare, community service
    work activities:  teaching, explaining, helping
    potential skills:  people skills, verbal ability, listening, showing understanding
    values:  cooperation, generosity, service to others
•  artistic  (A)
   interests:  self-expression, art appreciation
   work activities:  composing music, writing, creating visual art
   potential skills:  creativity, musical talent, artistic expression
   values:  beauty, originality, independence, imagination
 •  investigative (I)
   interests:  science, theories, ideas, data
   work activities:  performing lab work, solving abstract problems,  researching
   potential skills:  math, writing, analysis
   values:  independence, curiosity, learning

Students not planning to pursue graduate work in speech-language pathology might consider another occupation listed under the SAI code that requires at least a college degree:
clergy member librarian

Interestingly, few occupations fall under the SAI code.  Because of the small number of related occupations, the career center counselor reported that he has found occupations with two of the three theme codes, social (S) and artistic (A), are somewhat related.  Students may be interested in looking into one of the following:
copy writer dance therapist
district attorney, judge, lawyer musician, instrumental 
painter (professional and kindred) restorer, ceramic
television technician composer
exhibit designer  editor, technical and scientific  drama coach  publications
humorist association executive
lyricist, librettist  playwright
story editor biographer
director, instructional material social worker (medical)
reporter teacher (drama, art, speech,   literary agent preschool, secondary)
administrator, social welfare food and drug inspector
psychologist (clinical, counseling) director (e.g., safety council,  vocational training)

The counselor also shared research by Fogg et al (1999) that listed the top 10 occupations employing persons with only a bachelor's degree in audiology and speech-language pathology:

Using the information gathered from the Augustana program, the NAPP questionnaire, and the career counselor, I should be able to develop a handout comprised of two sections.  The first section would list occupations requiring graduate degrees that  students not pursuing graduate work in CSD might choose to pursue.  The second section would list the occupations students not pursuing graduate work might choose to pursue.  A worthwhile summer project?  I think so!

The Northern Illinois University Plan

Historically, like many institutions, the faculty at NIU had concentrated primarily on preparing and counseling students to enter graduate programs in Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology or Rehabilitation Counseling.  Therefore, a primary emphasis was placed on advising students about the importance of academic success for entry into our graduate programs.  Because the program had and continues to have an open admission status, students who were not excelling academically could not be removed from the major.  Students who were earning grade point averages below minimum for entry into our graduate programs were sent letters encouraging them to seek advisement about their academic achievement and possible changes in career aspirations.

With a continued institutional focus on student and graduate satisfaction, the program began to focus more on the feedback obtained from those graduates who had not gone on to graduate education in one of its professional areas.  As might be expected, that feedback from those students was quite negative and expressed a sense of abandonment by the department and faculty.  The faculty in the department felt a need to address the concerns being expressed.

As with Augustana, the faculty at NIU felt the undergraduate degree was valuable as a general degree preparing students for entry into graduate study in other professions and for employment in related areas. Upon adopting this philosophy, it became apparent that changes had to made in the advising of undergraduates.
As a first step, the department adopted a policy of not encouraging students to change their majors. Instead, advisors were encouraged to discuss all of the options a student would have upon graduation.  They included graduate study in one of our professions or in other professions as well as employment in related areas.  Because all new majors meet with the same faculty member upon entering the department, it was comparatively easy to initiate this change in the presentation of the value of the undergraduate degree.  Advisors were encouraged to continue with this theme during their semester advising meetings with students.

The department modified its literature to de-emphasize the pre-professional nature of the undergraduate degree.  Additional focus was placed on the general nature of the degree including the liberal arts component of the institution’s general education requirements.

Each fall, the department’s student association held a meeting for all undergraduate students entitled “How to Get Into Graduate School.”  The presentation, typically by the department chair, focused on identifying graduate programs and how to prepare the credentials and documents needed for application.  More recently, students requested having a meeting to discuss options for those students who were not successful in obtaining entry into a graduate program in one of our professions.  Individuals from the Office of Career Planning and Placement were invited to talk about their services and other topics such as resume writing, job fairs, internships, etc.  In addition, recent graduates who had not entered graduate school were invited to campus to speak about their job placements.  Although students viewed the meeting as helpful, it was not well attended and was felt to be too little too late.

Therefore, it was decided to have a single meeting each fall for all undergraduate students that focused on preparing for graduation.  This change in focus provided the opportunity to work with the students in preparing them for a number of options upon graduation.  Information is provided regarding graduate education, preparation of resumes, job fairs, internships, employment interviewing, the value of a minor, etc.  To date, those attending have viewed these changes very positively.

Because the changes described above have been fairly recent, we have not obtained enough data to adequately assess the effectiveness of our efforts. However, anecdotally, students appear to be more open in discussing their options.  In addition, students who have entered graduate programs in other professions are reporting a high level of satisfaction with their decisions.  Regardless, we feel justified in improving our efforts to more actively assist all students who complete our undergraduate majors.


Fogg, N. P. , Harrington, P. E., & Harrington, T. F.  (1999).  The college majors handbook: The actual jobs, earnings, and trends for graduates of 60 college majors.  Indianapolis:  JIST Works, Inc.

Gottfredson, G. D., & Holland, J. L. (1989) Dictionary of Holland occupational codes:  2nd ed.  Odessa, Fl.: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
Harmon, L. W., Hansen, J.-I. C., & Hammer, Al. L. (1994).  Strong interest inventory:  Applications and technical guide.  Stanford: Stanford University Press.


While the majority of students majoring in communication sciences and disorders at Augustana choose to pursue graduate work in audiology or speech-language pathology, some students also pursue employment or degrees in other fields.  Below are areas that may be of interest to you.



Develop, promote, or sell educational materials, tests, augmentative communication devices, voice recognition and production systems, textbooks, reference books, assistive listening devices, software, and accommodations for individuals with physical disabilities for use in




Adapted from NSSHLA Newsletter, Spring 1997 & handout developed by Wynn, Dancy, University of Texas – Austin.