Ph.D. in CSD or in a related area?

So, you’ve decided to get a Ph.D. You’ve considered the Ph.D. and the SLPD and decided you want a teaching and research career. So, the Ph.D. would be the right degree for this. The next question if you’re an audiologist or speech-language pathologist is to determine if you want to get a Ph.D. in CSD or in a related field. 

I’ve said before that probably the most important consideration is finding a mentor. That mentor may be a speech pathologist or audiologist working in a CSD department or in another related area (such as psychology or education). That mentor may be a psychologist, economist, sociologist working in a department of CSD, psychology, or education. The main thing is that you find a mentor whose work interests you. You will be working with this person (as well as other mentors in the program) to learn the research skills you need to be successful in an academic career.

A Ph.D. in CSD

One option is the Ph.D. in CSD. There are a number of programs that offer the degree. Typically you work with a mentor or mentors to conduct and write up research. You will take courses for the first 2-4 years depending on the program. And the courses you take will typically include statistics and courses in your area(s) of study. Often in CSD programs you end up taking coursework all over the university. My students often have taken courses in educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, special education, psychology, and linguistics. If you are already an SLP or audiologist you need to take courses that teach you fundamental theories of human development. You may need to delve into syntax, semantics, or phonology. Or processing. During your program you want to get our some publications. I think 3-5 is a good number to shoot for. You won’t be first author on all of them. And that’s okay. I think it’s good to get involved in a study that you lead and participate in other studies so that you learn the different ways you can contribute. During the Ph.D. program you want to get some teaching experience as well. This may be as a TA, guest lecturing, co-teaching, and teaching your own class.

A Ph.D. in a related area

A Ph.D. in a related area such as education, psychology, or linguistics can look really really similar to the Ph.D. in CSD. I was happy to see for example that the Ph.D. in Education at UCI is very similar (at least in the Human Development area) to the Ph.D. in CSD. A specialization in teaching and learning or in policy however would be very complementary to a degree in CSD, depending on ones interests.

I think however that you have to research the programs you are interested in (and identify a mentor). For example, not all Ph.D.s in Education have an emphasis in human development. I think we have these emphases at UCI because the faculty represents many different fields including language, special education, speech language pathology, bilingual education, reading, economics, sociology, higher education, technology, psychology, and so on.  So, you need to look carefully at who is on faculty and what courses are offered. Ultimately, the mentor is STILL the most important part of your decision.


There are a lot of academic jobs in CSD. About 2 of 5 jobs go unfilled each year. Some programs are smaller than others. Some emphasize teaching more than research. Some require clinical supervision as part of the teaching load. But, you have options. I think with strong publications in CSD or closely related areas and knowledge of the field you can get a job in CSD. You don’t have to have the CCC (though if clinical supervision is part of the job, you do). You don’t need to have a Ph.D. in CSD specifically (though I think you need to have an understanding of the practices of the profession and something to contribute related to communication disorders).


5 thoughts on “Ph.D. in CSD or in a related area?

  1. Thank you so much for the break down! As someone who is looking at a Ph.D in CSD, do you have any suggestions in finding a good mentor? I’ve contacted some faculty members that have similar interests about their research, but haven’t gotten any responses back.

    • I think maybe being really specific might help. And in the subject line add: interested in a Ph.D. program or something like that. Then, introduce yourself, state your interests and desire to apply for their Ph.D. program. Ask to set up a time to talk maybe on the phone or over skype about the Ph.D. This is a hard time of year with semesters and quarters ending. If you don’t hear anything in about a month, I’d try again in the fall. Sometimes in the program there is a graduate advisor, or director of graduate studies or graduate coordinator that you can contact. That will facilitate things as well.

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