Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of South Alabama offers students specialization in speech-language pathology, audiology, or communication sciences and disorders (CSD). This individualized, mentored, and interdisciplinary program is designed to provide a formal course of academic instruction and advanced research training in CSD aimed at developing leaders in research, teaching, and professional service. The mission of the Ph.D. program is to prepare students for responsible and successful careers as scholars by enabling them to gain the necessary knowledge and skills in the CSD discipline. Graduates will be prepared for research, scientific writing, teaching and supervision/mentorship through pedagogy, mentorship, and internship activities. The student’s ability to engage in original research and scholarship is enhanced by coursework in experimental research design and statistics, as well as various out-of-department opportunities.

For full-time students, it is anticipated that they can complete the PhD in approximately four years. Competitive funding is available. Additional information regarding the PhD CSD program is further detailed in the handbook, including details about the admission and degree requirements.

▼   Application Information

Applications to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program can be made year-round for admission the semester following acceptance.

▼   Frequently Asked Questions

Please see below for frequently asked questions about the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Communication Sciences and Disorders program.

▼   What can I do with a PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders?

Although there are many career paths PhD holders can pursue, the most common include roles in higher education and scholarship, with appointments in research, teaching, clinical supervision, and service. PhD holders can also advance toward obtaining academic administration responsibilities with experience. Obtaining a PhD affords you the opportunity to work in several settings, such as universities, independent research and consulting agencies, and clinical practices (hospitals, clinics, etc.). Ultimately, with a PhD, you will be prepared to engage in the systematic process of conducting research with the goal of contributing novel information to evidence-based practice, scientific writing, educational pedagogy, and professional service.

▼   How is a PhD different from other doctoral degrees (e.g., SLPD, AuD, EdD)?
  • The PhD, EdD, AuD, and SLPD are all doctorates but with several differences amongst them. The PhD is a terminal academic degree that is heavily research-oriented with additional preparation for teaching and academic roles. A terminal degree refers to the highest level of education that can be achieved within a discipline/field. With a PhD, you are expected to contribute novel research, publish academic work, and engage in dissemination of scholarship through conferences. The total time for degree completion is typically longer than an SLPD , AuD, or EdD. That is, the PhD usually consists of about 3-6 years for degree completion. The PhD is typically residential in nature and requires close work with a research mentor to develop your line of research.
  • The EdD is also a terminal degree but more focused for educators and professionals who are interested in educational leadership roles and applying research to educational settings. It can often be completed in 3 years, with several options to complete the degree residentially or online while still being able to continue employment.
  • The AuD and SLPD are professional / clinical doctorates and although an advanced degree, are not considered terminal degrees. They prepare practicing clinicians to advance their practices in the aspects of clinical practice, leadership, organizational policy and procedures, clinical education/supervision, and basic clinical research. Although research may be included in the curriculum, it is not necessarily required. Time to completion for a AuD is typically 4 years and residential, while the SLPD is usually completed in about 2-3 years with online or limited residency options.
▼   How long is the Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program?
Full-time students can typically complete the program between 3 to 6 years. However, the time to completion depends on multiple factors, including the time you contribute outside of formal classroom instruction.
▼   Are research projects required for completion of the Ph.D.?
Aside from coursework and directed studies, students in the PhD program are required to complete a pre dissertation research project before admission to doctoral degree candidacy. Students also complete a dissertation project after they achieve candidacy status. Both these requirements must be original works of the student, with supervision from the student’s major advisor and respective committee members. Although these two research projects are the minimum research requirements, PhD students often engage in various research projects throughout the course of the program to become well-versed in different methodologies and become familiar with high-quality research and scholarship, resulting in publications in refereed journals and conference proceedings.
▼   How does the Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program at the University of South Alabama compare to others?
We are the only program in the state of Alabama that offers a PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders, which provides us unmatched opportunities to innovate and remain at the forefront of clinical research in our field. In addition, our department is housed within the Health Sciences building that affords us the opportunity to engage in interprofessional collaboration with other departments (nursing, physical and occupational therapy, physician associates). We also have our own space for teaching and designated research labs with cutting edge technology that are not readily available at other programs around the country. For instance, our Swallowing Disorders Initiative (SDI) Lab has an in-house videofluoroscopy unit, the Auditory Event-Related Potentials (AERP) Lab has electroencephalography (EEG), and the Vestibular and Balance (VaB) Lab has video Head Impulse Testing (vHIT) and a static posturography platform.
▼   How many students are in the Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program?

There are typically between 2-10 doctoral students in the PhD program at any given time, with the number of students growing as we continue to attract prospects locally, nationally, and internationally.

▼   Do I need a background in communication sciences and disorders in order to be admitted to the PhD program?

Although it is encouraged to have some background in communication sciences and disorders, it is not required to be admitted to the PhD program. However, we recommend you have a background in some similar or relevant sub-discipline or clinical experience (e.g., behavioral sciences) and are a good fit with one of our faculty research mentors. You must also have earned or are in the processing of completing a graduate degree from an accredited institution.

▼   What coursework is required to apply to the PhD program?

Although there are some foundational research and statistical courses required while enrolled, the coursework for students in the PhD program is largely tailored to the student’s research interest area and academic goals. Please see the PhD Student Handbook to see the coursework requirements.

▼   How do I apply to the Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program?

The application process for the PhD program is streamlined through the CSDCAS web-application. After confirming you meet the criteria to be considered for admission, create a CSDCAS account, and complete the Colleges Attended section where you will be prompted to select an institution. Select the University of South Alabama Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program and complete all fields required for submission.

▼   Can I be accepted for any semester (e.g., Fall, Spring or Summer)?

We admit students in our PhD program on a rolling basis at the beginning of the Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters. You may submit your application year-round.

▼   What is the most important part of my application?

Admission to the PhD program involves a comprehensive evaluation of your application. We recommend that you craft a targeted, well-balanced application that highlights your academic record, intellectual curiosity and capacity, and authentic personal and professional profile and interests that makes you fit for the program and a career as a research scholar.

▼   What are the entrance requirements for the Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. Program?

To be considered for admission, you must have the following: Earned or be in the process of completing a graduate degree from an accredited institution, have a minimum of 3.0 overall undergraduate GPA, complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) with a preferred minimum composite score of 290, provide at least 3 letters of recommendation from faculty at your previous graduate institution (2 must be provided by PhD faculty), and submit a statement of purpose. Please see the Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program degree requirements bulletin for specific details.

▼   What sort of financial aid is available?
  • Graduate assistantships are available annually but limited on a competitive basis. These assistantships provide PhD students an annual stipend, which must be renewed annually and are typically guaranteed for 3 years. PhD students who secure a graduate assistantship are required to work within the department up to 20 hours per week during each semester, with work assignments assigned based on departmental needs.
  • There are support mechanisms in place to assist enrolled PhD students with travel expenses for research and academic endeavors (e.g., national conventions). The Graduate Student Activities Enhancement Program provides funding for eligible students up to $2,000. Please visit the Graduate Student Activities Enhancement Program Awardees webpage for more information. Our department also provides up to $250 for travel support, which may be matched by the College of Allied Health.
  • Individuals who do not receive a graduate assistantship should note that there are several potential mechanisms of internal and external funding opportunities available for PhD students. For instance, each year the ASHFoundation awards 15 master’s level or doctoral student applicants $5,000 through the Graduate Student Scholarship, which can be applied to the PhD program. They also offer scholarships for students with disabilities, as well as minority and international students. There are scholarships available for PhD students who have or are soon to advance to PhD candidacy status as well. For example, the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) PhD Scholarship funds up to 8 students annually with $20,000. We encourage you to learn more about these funding options by visiting their respective websites. You may also want to search online for similar funding opportunities or view our PhD Student Handbook (Section M) for a more comprehensive list of potential funding sources.
  • Students can also inquire about federal student loans through the Office of Financial Aid.
▼   Is it possible to work outside the program while obtaining the degree?
The nature of PhD work is rigorous and requires significant time commitment. Students are encouraged to dedicate full-time efforts to their coursework, research projects, and scholarly endeavors. However, we understand that everyone’s situation is different. Some students choose to work PRN or part-time for personal reasons. It is up to the student to make the best decisions for themselves, but they should speak with their academic mentor who can help them navigate their unique situation.
▼   Can I complete the program remotely?
In general, our PhD program is fully residential in Mobile, AL. However, remote opportunities are afforded on a case-by-case basis for individuals that have completed required coursework and achieved candidacy status.
▼   Are part-time students accepted?
Enrollment in the PhD program is typically full-time, especially for students who are funded through a graduate assistantship. However, there are circumstances where students enroll part-time based on residency requirements made by the Graduate School. Other opportunities for special circumstances may be made at the discretion of the PhD Admissions Committee, Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies for the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions, and the Dean of the Graduate School.
▼   Can I visit the department?

Yes, we welcome students interested in the PhD program for an on-site visit. Prior to requesting a visit, we encourage you to identify potential faculty member mentors on our faculty page whose research interests may align with yours to provide you an opportunity to meet with them during the visit. Please contact Dr. Ashley Flagge, the PhD Program Coordinator, to obtain more information about scheduling an on-campus visit.

▼   What if I don’t know what specific research topic I would like to study?
You do not need to have a specific research topic of study entering the PhD program. It is best to have a general major content research area (e.g., swallowing and swallowing disorders, aphasia, fluency, speech understanding in noise, vestibular disorders, aural rehabilitation, noise-induced hearing loss) identified prior to program entry as this will form the basis of matching with a research mentor. Once admitted to the program, your research mentor will guide you to develop a plan of study and identify a specific and suitable topic during the early phases of the program.
▼   How should I choose a research mentor?

There are several ways to go about choosing a research mentor. Listed below are simply recommendations that have worked for some students. Please know that this is not a comprehensive list, and your approach may be a combination of these options or different from the suggestions.

  • Viewing the faculty webpage to explore faculty members’ interests may help you determine a potential faculty mentor. You may want to view their curriculum vitae, scholarly work, and associated lab pages to determine if their interests align well with yours. Look at their topics of study, methodologies and equipment used, patient populations they work with, and their clinical worldview.
  • Set up a meeting with 1-2 faculty members and discuss your research interests and their mentorship approach. This is a good time to see if your personalities and goals align well.
  • Look for faculty who are proactive in your areas of research interest and those who encourage publishing opportunities.
  • Think about the funding opportunities that the potential mentor has in place or is working toward (e.g., NIH grants).
  • Consider the lab culture to see if you would enjoy working in that environment.
  • Talk with the potential mentor’s past and current PhD students to get a sense of the mentor-student relationship from a different perspective.
▼   I have determined a specific research topic that I’m interested in, but the SPA department doesn’t have faculty with expertise in this area. What should I do?
We have a variety of speech pathology and audiology faculty who have a wide range of expertise in different content areas. However, if you are unable to find a faculty mentor who is a good fit for you, you may reach out to a faculty member who has the closest interests as they may have suggestions to modify or merge topics of interest that may spark new or mutual ideas for collaboration. They may also have suggestions for other researchers in their network who may be more suitable for your intended work. Having research interests that are 100% identical to a prospective PhD mentor is often not realistic, but it is important that your faculty mentor has expertise and knowledge in the area you seek.
▼   Why do you recommend an interview with faculty prior to application?
Meeting prospective faculty mentors is critical for doctoral study as you will need to find a mentor who has similar research interests and can provide the type of supervision and opportunities you need to reach your professional goals. Initial meetings (virtually or on-site) are important to get to know their interests and expertise, mentorship and working style, goals, and values. This is your chance to interview them as well.
▼   Can I complete an MS and a PhD program at the same time?

Currently, we do not offer a concurrent MS/PhD program, although it is possible to do a fast-track MS to PhD program for SLP students. However, we do offer an AuD/PhD option (see below).

▼   Can I complete the AuD/PhD program at the same time?

Yes, we currently offer a dual-track option for Audiology doctoral students interested in pursuing a PhD. Students interested in the dual-track program begin the Audiology clinical doctorate program and complete two years of AuD coursework and clinic before beginning the dual track (adding PhD coursework) in the 3rd year of the AuD.

▼   What about my Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) or AuD Externship?
  • At this time, we do not provide specific opportunities for students to complete their clinical fellowship (CF) while enrolled in the PhD program. It is recommended that if students try to complete their CF during the program that they do so only after they have passed their comprehensive exams. There are several factors that must be considered (e.g., student responsibilities, such as hours dedicated to classes, directed studies, research, graduate assistantships). These decisions are best made with your potential mentor, PhD coordinator, and PhD committee members.
  • For students enrolled in the dual track AuD/PhD program, your AuD externship will be incorporated into your program of study. Most students choose to complete a local part-time or full-time externship after the completion of PhD comprehensive exams. However, as stated above for CFY, this decision is best made with your potential mentor, PhD coordinator, and PhD committee members.
▼   I don’t have a master’s degree. Can I still work clinically if I complete a PhD?
  • No, the master’s degree is the clinical entry-level degree for speech-language pathology. Please see the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) certification requirements for the certification standards needed to work clinically. For potential students interested in earning their master’s degree in speech-language pathology, please see our master’s degree program.
  • For dual-track AuD/PhD students, you will complete the entry-level clinical requirement (AuD) simultaneously with your PhD. Students accepted to the dual-track program begin PhD coursework in the 3rd year of the AuD coursework.
▼   Does the department assist the students in finding employment after graduation?

The Communication Sciences and Disorders PhD program faculty provides close mentorship to PhD students throughout the process, including guidance on post-graduate career development and decisions, such pursuing a post-doctorate position or faculty opportunities. Given the exemplary training PhD students receive in our program, along with the faculty’s involvement in numerous external committees and organizations and high reputation nationally and internationally, many employers view graduates of our program as highly qualified.

▼   I have another question that is not listed here, what can I do to get it answered?

For additional information, please contact our PhD Program Coordinator, Dr. Ashley Flagge.



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