STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State’s first communication sciences and disorders cohort is graduating, and two of its four students already have jobs in their new field.
That’s how in-demand their skills are in the community. One student was even offered a job on the spot during her interview, said Brittany Watson, communication sciences and disorders Instructor.
“We partnered with Granbury, Crowley and Burleson ISDs, and they were trying to recruit our students as they were doing their practicum,” Watson said. “There’s a huge need for speech-language pathologists, so we’re excited to help support the community in meeting that need.”
The inaugural cohort of four — Morgan Schaeffer and Ailey Kubala of Granbury, Norma Herrera of Fort Worth and Jillian Martin of Lindsay, Texas — started the program when it debuted in 2021 and Watson and Dr. Lauren Pierson came on board. They have gained hands-on experience in a variety of settings, such as volunteering through readingpartners.org to tutor struggling students in under-resourced schools, conducting hearing screens and testing in the program’s audiology booth, and participating in an aphasia support group at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, helping adults who have communication disorders because of a stroke.
The communication sciences and disorders field encompasses caring and creative problem solvers in speech-language pathology, audiology, special education and medicine. Tarleton Fort Worth’s BS in communication sciences and disorders degree program addresses the science behind communicating with and caring for people, from birth to older adults.
“It’s important to note the breadth of services this degree helps support in the community, from young children who struggle with speech impediments or reading all the way to adults who have had strokes or brain injuries,” said Dr. Melissa Becker, Director of Extension and Off-Campus Education. “It touches all the people in the community.”
The program combines education with hands-on application. Graduates may pursue careers in the rapidly growing field of speech-language pathology and audiology and are poised to help meet the regional and state need for practitioners in healthcare and education.
“When they graduate they can get licensed as a speech-language pathologist assistant and practice under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist, or they can go on to graduate school,” Watson said.
A speech-language pathologist assistant can provide treatment for various communication disorders under the supervision of a licensed speech-language pathologist. A graduate degree in speech-language pathology or audiology paves the way to become a licensed speech-language pathologist (MS CCC-SLP) or licensed audiologist (AuD CCC-A).
Dr. Pierson, the CSD program director, is working on a master’s program that is scheduled to begin in fall 2027.
Currently 52 students are in the undergraduate program. The next graduating group will number 15.
“That they’ve gone from zero to 50 since August 2021 — I think that’s huge,” Dr. Becker said. “That shows very healthy growth of the program.”
The Tarleton program is designed to be transfer friendly, as evidenced by how many students come in from other Texas schools and area community colleges, Watson said.
“We project it will just continue to grow.”
Jobs in the communication sciences and disorders field are expected to increase 18% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
U.S. News & World Report, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ranked speech-language pathologist fourth in its “Best Health Care Jobs” and seventh in “100 Best Jobs” for 2021.
To learn more, visit https://www.tarleton.edu/degrees/communication-sciences-disorders-bs/.