You’ll utilise your scientific background to help people of all ages and stages experiencing hearing loss or hearing challenges.
What is an audiologist?
An audiologist assesses people experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders. You’ll use diagnostic tests to discover the underlying causes of a patient’s difficulties, and offer recommendations for treatment. You may work within an NHS setting, privately, or even in a research role within a university, but the overarching theme is using your scientific knowledge to improve lives.
As with any role in healthcare, work experience placements are competitive.
If you’re working clinically, you’ll be part of a wider team of health professionals. They’ll refer their patients to you, to use your specialist knowledge for diagnostics. You may work within a paediatric team, with elderly people, or within a team specialising in people with additional multisensory needs. You’ll deliver your reports to doctors, who will administer appropriate treatments based upon your recommendations.
Responsibilities will vary depending on your workplace, but you can expect to carry out the following actions on a regular basis:
- Administering these tests, adapting as you go to meet patient needs.
- Fitting hearing aids, assessing their effectiveness and adapting them if patient needs change.
- Keeping on top of recent research for testing and diagnostics.
- Meeting patients and assessing what the best tests will be to measure their hearing or balance concerns.
- Operating and maintaining testing equipment.
- Teaching and training new audiologists, or audiologist apprentices.
- Working within a multidisciplinary team and working collaboratively on individual patient plans.
An audiologist salary is dependent on whether you work as part of a wider NHS team, or within private practice.
If you choose to work within the NHS, your salary will be based on the NHS Agenda for Change pay rates. If you go down the Practitioner Training route (see qualifications to read more on routes into audiology), you’ll likely start on a band 6 salary as a trainee audiologist (£33,706). If you’re already qualified, you’ll be on band 7 (£41,659 - £47,672). Should you take on further training and seniority, you could move further up the bands.
Private audiology roles vary widely in terms of salary - they can be significantly higher, but also lower, than NHS routes. If you’re part of a private hospital or medical facility, audiologist pay can look like £50,000 and above. Alternatively many high street pharmacy firms have in house audiologists to support hearing aid care or offer hearing tests. Roles like these often start at £28,000.
There are a few different routes to becoming an audiologist, though all audiologist qualifications involve degree level study.
The most common route is completing a three year BSc Healthcare Sciences degree via the NHS. This is also referred to as the NHS Practitioner Training Programme. You apply via UCAS as you ordinarily would with most degrees , though your study will balance academic learning with hands-on work experience. Within your training programme, you can specialise in audiology.
As part of your registration with the HCPC, you’ll be required to regularly undertake continuous professional development (CPD).
If you already have a degree in science or engineering you can complete the NHS Scientist Training programme. To apply, you need to have achieved a 2:1 in your undergraduate studies, or a 2:2 with a passed higher level degree as well (a Masters or a PhD). This is a three year long course, but instead of studying full time, you will train on the job while earning a full time salary. You will also gain a Masters degree in your area of work. Applications for the Scientist Training Programme are via Oriel, the NHS postgraduate recruitment system.
Once you’ve completed your training, you can apply the Certificate of Attainment from the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS). This means you’ll be a registered Clinical Scientist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Training and development
As part of your registration with the HCPC, you’ll be required to regularly undertake continuous professional development (CPD). There are lots of different types of CPD opportunities out there, including:
- Applying and winning research bids to study specific areas of interest, such as hearing aid function or researching on balance.
- Attending conferences and seminars, either within your hospital or as part of the HCPC or the British Auditory Academy.
- On the job training, such as shadowing senior staff members.
- Publishing research studies as part of scientific journals, or speaking at conferences to share your research.
If you’re unable to directly shadow or observe an audiologist, any experience showing your interest in research and ability to care for others will still be of value to you.
If you particularly enjoy the research side of audiology, you may choose to go down the PhD study route. You can search which universities offer Health Science PhD study, or if you’re working within the NHS, you could apply for the Higher Specialist Scientist Training Programme. The NHS describes this option as ‘training the consultants of the future’, and includes a Doctoral award (PhD) as part of a five year workplace study programme.
Your current skills need to show evidence of scientific knowledge and a strength in caring for others. Even if you go down the research route, an audiology role still focuses on improving lives, so both skillsets are vital. Here are some key skills you’ll require to get started:
- A clear interest in audiological science.
- A scientific background, as part of your previous degree study if you’re going down the NHS Scientific training route, or in your A Levels or equivalents when applying for the NHS Practitioner Programme.
- An ability to learn how to use new technologies quickly and effectively.
- An ability to work well in a team, as you’ll likely be part of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals.
- An ability to work with individuals of all ages and stages, from babies to the elderly.
- An interest in research and ability to keep up to date with academic studies in your field.
- Confidence in working both clinically and in a research setting.
- Empathy and a caring nature.
As with any role in healthcare, work experience placements are competitive. If you can, try and access some time observing an NHS audiologist in a hospital, or a private audiologist near you. You can contact your local audiology unit within NHS hospital trusts, and ask for a tour of what is offered in your local hospital. If this is not possible, you might like to try asking to shadow in audiology services at local chemists, opticians or pharmacies, such as Boots or Specsavers.
If you are applying for the graduate route into audiology, and are still currently studying at a university-based course, you could try contacting relevant health academics at your current place of study. They may have contacts in local health settings and be able to put you in touch with the right department. Alternatively, there may be some audiology research going on at your university already – reach out to the relevant department to find out what might be available for shadowing.
An audiologist assesses people experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders.
If you’re unable to directly shadow or observe an audiologist, any experience showing your interest in research and ability to care for others will still be of value to you. Shadowing or volunteering within an elderly residential care home is a great example of this. You’ll be able to see how elderly individuals are cared for, as well as potentially learning about how any hearing loss is managed for them – such as care and upkeep of hearing aids.
The vast majority of audiologist careers progress through the NHS, where development is standardised. As you gain experience, take on CPD and carry out your own research, you can apply to go up the different bands of pay.
As you go up the bands of pay, you’ll likely specialise in a particular area of audiology, such as paediatric audiology. If you're interested in eventually becoming a consultant audiologist, you’ll want to look into the Higher Specialist Scientist Training Program.
While the NHS is a very common route for career progression within audiology, it’s not the only way to grow professionally. Some audiologists begin their work in the NHS and eventually transition to private practice. Alternatively, some audiologists find that the research side of their field is what interests them, so pursue a career in academia. This would likely include both teaching and research, funded by their university. Many research trusts also look for audiology specialists.