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The Communication Sciences and Disorders major is within the College of Health and Behavioral Studies.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Communication Sciences and Disorders is offered as a major at JMU. The Communication Sciences and Disorders undergraduate major focuses on understanding the processes of normal speech, language, and hearing, and provides an introduction to communication disorders. The curriculum provides undergraduate pre-professional course work and observation for those interested in a career as a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. An objective of the department is to provide an undergraduate curriculum directed toward rigorous preparation of students for subsequent graduate study in speech-language pathology, audiology, or speech and hearing sciences. A graduate degree is the minimum requirement for competency/certification endorsed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and for Virginia licensure in speech pathology or audiology. JMU offers graduate programs in both speech-language pathology and audiology. Study at the Ph.D. level in communication sciences and disorders is also available at JMU. An undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders is an excellent background for related fields such as deaf education or special education. A learning-by-participation philosophy is reflected in clinical observation and practicum, which are facilitated through the JMU Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinics, and through field-based practicum experiences at the graduate level.

More About the Field 

Speech-language pathologists are involved in the prevention, evaluation, treatment and research of persons with communication disorders. Speech-language pathologists are trained to test, diagnosis, and treat communication disorders in infants, children, and adults. Speech-language pathologists assess the extent of communication disorders and recommend the appropriate treatment for clients with: delayed speech development; delayed language development; voice impairments or loss; cleft lip/palate, craniofacial abnormalities and other diseases /traumas affecting the facial parts necessary for speaking; stuttering or other fluency disorders; learning disabilities; autism; nonverbal individuals or those whose verbal communication is limited; deaf or hard of hearing individuals.

Audiologists are hearing health-care professionals who are educated and trained to evaluate and treat hearing, balance, and related disorders. Audiologists assess the extent of hearing loss, balance and related disorders and recommend the appropriate treatment, including: aural rehabilitation, hearing aids, and other amplification devices. Audiologists provide services to clients who are: deaf or hard of hearing; experience speech and/or language difficulties; persons at risk for hearing loss due to noise exposure; exposed to certain drugs or middle ear infections; and auditory based learning disabilities.

Both the speech-language pathology and audiology are professions growing with expanded career opportunities projects well beyond the next decade.


Communication Sciences and Disorders is the academic discipline that leads to two professions: Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. Within each major area there are various specializations. For example, in some settings the audiologist and/or speech-language pathologist may provide services to adults, while in another setting they may assess and provide assistance to infants and toddlers. Some audiologists focus primarily on fitting hearing aids, while others are concerned with assessment for medically related diagnoses. Some speech-language pathologists work with feeding and swallowing disorders, while others may work with individuals who have suffered a stroke or closed head injury. Both professions include careers in educational/medical research, teaching, university teaching, and clinical service delivery.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Rarely does a Communication Sciences and Disorders major pursue a second major due to the demanding curriculum, however, possible minors might include Modern Foreign Language, Gerontology or Special Education Non Teaching.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Students who want to work directly with people in a helping profession, enjoy working with people of all ages, and are strong students academically are usually successful in this field. Traits sought are individuals who have the ability to communicate effectively, the aptitude for working with people who have special needs, the ability to approach problems objectively, take initiative, are patient and exhibit sensitivity.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind that graduate study is required for most positions in this field. Some individuals who major in communication sciences and disorders go on for further study in special education, medicine, and psychology.

  • Audiologist
  • Clinical Supervisor
  • Director of Speech and Hearing Services
  • Early Intervention Specialist
  • Hearing Clinician
  • Hearing Scientist
  • Human Resources Associate
  • Operations Coordinator
  • Private Practitioner
  • Researcher
  • Speech-Language Educator
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Speech Clinician
  • Speech Scientist
  • University Professor

Who Employs Graduates?

Students should be attending graduate programs following the bachelor’s degree. Possible employers include: Adult Day Care Centers, Centers for the Developmentally Disabled, Colleges and Universities, Communication Sciences Institutes and Private Agencies, Community Clinics, Hearing Manufacturing Industries, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO's), Home Care, Hospitals or Medical Centers, Independent Private Practices, Nursing Care Facilities , Public and Private Schools, Public Health Agencies, Rehabilitation Facilities, Research Laboratories, State and Federal Government Agencies, and State Funded Facilities for the Hearing Impaired.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

The Communication Sciences and Disorders Department places a strong emphasis on learning-by-participation which is evidenced by clinical observation (at the undergraduate level), and practicum experiences (at the graduate level). Completing undergraduate research and honors projects are encouraged. Opportunities to work closely with individual faculty members can occur during the junior and senior years. Joining the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association is recommended.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles

Speech-Language Pathologists
Speech-Language Pathologists

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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