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    Columbia Campus
  Jul 13, 2024
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Elaine M. Frank, Chair

Faculty Doctor of Philosophy
Overview USC Speech and Hearing Center
Admission Standards Programs and Courses
Master’s Degrees Website


The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers graduate training leading to the master’s and doctoral degrees. The master’s degree program is intended to prepare students for the clinical practice of speech-language pathology. The program has been continuously accredited for more than 30 years by the Council for Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Graduates of the master’s program are eligible for their state license to practice speech-language pathology, a teaching certificate from the South Carolina State Department of Education, and board certification from ASHA (the Certification for Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology). The doctor of philosophy degree is designed to prepare individuals for careers in research and the scholarly study of the science of human communication and its disorders. Doctoral students, under the director of a mentor, regularly participate in laboratory activities and pursue a program of scholarly research leading to publication in scientific journals and grant writing. Unlike the master’s program, which offers a professional degree, the Ph.D. is an academic degree and focuses on providing students with the skills necessary to be successful university professors at research-1 institutions.

Admission Standards

Due to the large number of applicants for the graduate degree programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders, admission is highly competitive. The average four-year undergraduate grade point average of those admitted has been about 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) while the average verbal+quantitative scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is around 1,100. All aspects of a prospective student’s application are considered by members of the admissions committee, including the three letters of recommendation (at least two of which must come from the applicant’s former professors) and the applicant’s personal statement. A completed application must be received no later than February 1st of the year in which the student intends to enroll.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders requires that all applicants to the speech-language pathology program have completed college-level course work in each of the following areas: biological science, physical science, behavioral/social science, and math. This coursework must be completed prior to enrolling in the master’s degree program.

Master’s Degrees

The department offers two paths for earning a master’s degree: the traditional, on-campus MSP (which requires full-time, year round enrollment for two calendar years) and the MCD, (offered on a part-time basis via distance education). The curricula for the master’s degree consists of four principal areas of study: (1) the normal development and use of speech, language, and hearing; (2) information and training in speech-language pathology and audiology; (3) clinical practice in speech-language pathology, and (4) research. Entrance into the master’s program (summer or fall semesters) depends upon a student’s prior academic and clinical experience. During each semester, students have concurrent practicum placements in selected clinical sites to develop skills in the practice of speech-language pathology. In addition to the University of South Carolina Speech and Hearing Research Center, the department utilizes over 300 external practicum sites, including public schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, community clinics, physician’s offices, and private practices in SLP.

The MCD was developed to make professional training in speech-language pathology accessible to those who must work full-time while attending graduate school or who do not have regular access to the Columbia campus. The curriculum leading to the master’s degree (including all academic course work and clinical training) is the same regardless of the path chosen to earn the degree (full-time on campus or part-time via distance education). The only difference is how the course content is delivered and the length of time it takes to receive the degree.

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders prepares professionals for academic careers, and therefore its emphasis is on research and the scholarly study of the science of human communication and its disorders. All students in the doctoral program must pursue their studies on a full-time basis, conducting scientific experiments in one or more of the department’s laboratories under the guidance of a research mentor. Ph.D. students also gain experience in curriculum development and classroom teaching.
Upon the completion of a program of study, approved by both the student’s academic program committee and The Graduate School, and prior to embarking upon a dissertation, doctoral students must successfully pass written and oral comprehensive examinations. The doctoral program culminates in the successful defense of the dissertation, consisting of the collection and analysis of original scientific data.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program should specify, in the personal statement accompanying their application, their area of research interest. The department currently laboratories supporting research in neuroimaging, adult neurogenics, voice disorders and instrumentation, and child language. For information on this research and these laboratories, go to the department’s research web sites:

The length of time needed to complete the Ph.D. degree depends on a student’s educational background and professional goals. Students who possess a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and are board certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association generally pursue two years of academic/research preparation followed by one or more years to complete the dissertation. Master’s-level speech-language pathologists who are wishing to pursue their board certification while enrolled in the doctoral program will take slightly longer. Finally, students with bachelor’s degrees from other related scientific disciplines (e.g., psychology, linguistics, engineering, exercise science), who aspire to become speech-language-hearing scientists with no interest in clinical practice, take three years of course work prior to the dissertation year.

USC Speech and Hearing Center

The USC Speech and Hearing Research Center is one of more than 300 practicum sites where students pursuing their master’s degree in speech-language pathology receive supervised clinical experience. Clinical services include speech, language, and hearing evaluations and treatment for persons of all ages, including University students and faculty members. The Center is located at 1601 St. Julian Place, Middle Office Park, Columbia, SC. and employs three audiologists, nine speech-language pathologists, and four staff members.

Communication Sciences and Disorders