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Perspectives on the Au.D.

Perspectives on the Au.D.
Kenneth Lowder, AuD
June 9, 2000

My name is Dr. Ken Lowder. I am fifty-seven years old. I was a speech pathologist for thirteen years and have now been a private practice audiologist for almost twenty years. I am a graduate of the University of Florida's Au.D. program. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience.


I can recall the excitement I felt when I first heard of the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists proposal of a new doctoral degree for clinical practitioners. When the Audiology Foundation of America (AFA) began its work advocating for the transition of our profession to the Au.D., I was thrilled. The moment the AFA's earned entitlement (EE) credential became available, I applied. Soon thereafter, it became apparent to me the EE credential would not be accepted in place of an earned degree.

About two years ago, I received a flyer from the University of Florida regarding their Working Professional Au.D. degree program. Although it made little practical sense, I decided to apply immediately. I was nearing the end of my career, I was financially secure, I was happy with my practice and yet this opportunity intrigued me.

I believed I still had much to contribute to my profession. I had a desire to compete. I wanted to set an example for those who follow me. I wanted a new challenge. My only real regret was the opportunity was not available to me twenty years ago!


My first class was in Columbus, OH (the rest were in Chicago) and the subject was electrophysiology. I can still recall thinking ''what am I doing here?'' I flew halfway across the country to sit in a room full of bright young audiologists, all of whom, I was sure, had far more knowledge and experience with this topic than I. When I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa, ABRs were hardly a clinical tool. There was one ''Dr. Frankenstein'' ABR machine deep in the bowels of University Hospital. I recall a fear that I would not make it through the first class! For the next eight weeks I worked very hard to learn the material. By the time I finished the final exam, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I knew I would finish the entire program. I had begun a journey that would be a richly rewarding and satisfying. I would gain new friends and colleagues. I would have a new perspective on our profession.


Although the academic offerings were extremely challenging, they were fair and they furthered my clinical and academic knowledge. Nonetheless, the best part of the program for me was the opportunity to meet and interact regularly with a large group of very committed audiologists. I certainly learned a great deal from them. Although the majority of my studies were done independently, my class met as a whole unit for an entire weekend every eight weeks. I found I looked forward to those reunions. Our group enjoyed socializing in the evenings and now that my program is over, I must admit - I miss the camaraderie.


After all of my expenses were tallied up, I found I had spent twenty thousand dollars to earn this degree. But as I indicated earlier, my motivation for returning to school was not monetary. As a private practitioner, I did not give myself a raise or a promotion. I was simply satisfying a personal desire. What I received was personal satisfaction. My colleagues who have more productive years ahead of them will no doubt receive significantly higher compensation and job responsibilities resulting from earning their Au.D. degree.


In just a few short years, our profession has come a very long way. If NAFDA's projections are correct, fully a third of all audiologists will have earned the Au.D. by Fall, 2004. However, even those apparently laudatory projections fall short of the complete transition of audiology into a doctoring profession. Therefore, I have two primary concerns at this time. First, I am concerned significant numbers of audiologists will not be motivated to obtain the Au.D. degree. Second, I am concerned academic programs will continue to produce masters' level audiologists for the work force. Both of these are major issues for me, which can stifle our professional growth and recognition.

Quite simply, I believe all audiologists need to become doctors of audiology in order to enjoy the professional knowledge, the responsibilities and the opportunity to enjoy the rights and privileges other professions have earned via their doctoral education.

Thankfully, many academic programs are now in place, which are more affordable than the route I took. This will ease the financial burden for many current practitioners. Also, we are gaining ''missionaries''. Those of us who have finished Au.D. program will undoubtedly encourage our peers to consider returning to the classroom. We now have two new Au.D. programs which are located in professional schools. This milestone promises to bring entirely new and healthy changes to audiology doctoral education.


The commitment and spirit of my class was exemplary. Although I have concerns regarding the future of my profession, those concerns are somewhat tempered by the knowledge that there are soon to be very significant numbers of Au.D. audiologists who will be working diligently to complete the transition to a unified, doctoring profession. Was it worth it? Of course it was. I encourage all audiologists to obtain an Au.D. degree.

Kenneth L. Lowder, Au.D.
Chair Audiology Foundation of America'

Sennheiser Hearing - June 2024

Kenneth Lowder, AuD

Chair, Audiology Foundation of America (AFA)

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