2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
    Jul 14, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Communication Disorders, M.S.

The master’s programs in Communication Disorders focus on the prevention, assessment, and treatment of speech, language, cognitive, and swallowing disorders. Students completing the programs are eligible to complete the requirements for national certification and state licensure to practice clinical speech-language pathology. The master’s program exists in two modalities: as a full-time on-campus program and online (5-term or 9-term) as the Speech@Emerson program. The master’s program is a 72-credit-hour program, consisting of foundational courses (18 credit hours) and applied graduate coursework (54 credit hours of academic and clinical courses). Based on a review of their academic records, students could be waived from up to 18 credit hours.

The Communication Disorders master’s degree programs are grounded on the premise that human communication and its disorders involve complex interactions of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. The programs emphasize the scientific method in scholarship and clinical application. Academic and clinical experiences focus on case-based learning, family-centered intervention, and reflective practice. Diverse curricular, research, and applied opportunities across the lifespan ensure that graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to engage competently and ethically in the professional workplace. Coursework explores speech, language, voice, fluency, social-communication, cognitive-linguistic, swallowing, and hearing impairments resulting from developmental delays, neuropathologies, learning disabilities, craniofacial anomalies, hearing loss, and trauma.

Each student’s academic and clinical program is planned in accordance with the degree requirements of Emerson College and the academic and clinical requirements for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

The facilities of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders are equipped with the latest technology to support academics, research, and clinical learning. Emerson’s location in Boston and proximity to public transportation provides students with access to community-based practica in a wide variety of clinical settings and with the opportunity to work with children and adults with a range of communication disorders. On-campus clinical experiences begin in the Robbins Speech, Language, and Hearing Center and its specialty programs, including the Thayer Lindsley Family-Centered Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, the Program for Acquired Communication Disorders, the Program for Developmental Communication Disorders, the Program for Speech Improvement, and the Group Language Therapy Program. All are located in the same building as the department.

After successful completion of an initial practicum within the Robbins Speech, Language, and Hearing Center, on-campus master’s students may be assigned to a clinical experience in an external facility. More than 100 off-campus practicum sites include public and private schools, early intervention programs, private practices, acute care, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing facilities. Speech@Emerson students participate in a Virtual Placement experience as their first clinical placement. Following successful completion of the Virtual Placement, students participate in clinical placements arranged in locations within 75 miles of where they live. Throughout both the on-campus and Speech@Emerson graduate programs, students work closely with clinical faculty to perform evaluations and to design and implement intervention programs.

Both the on-campus and the Speech@Emerson master’s programs are accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Accreditation ensures that students who graduate from the programs are eligible for the Clinical Fellowship (CF) experience prior to applying for the Certificate of Clinical Competence.

Following are the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for the Communication Disorders programs:

  • Students will understand the theories underlying typical and atypical speech, language, cognition, and swallowing processes.
  • Students will demonstrate clinical skills to assess, diagnose, and treat communication and swallowing disorders across the lifespan within the context of family-centered practice.
  • Students will integrate theoretical knowledge with clinical experience and critically evaluate research literature in their clinical practice to problem solve clinical cases.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to collaborate with peers and colleagues.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Factors considered in the application review process include undergraduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, quality of the personal essay, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. For the on-campus program, highly qualified candidates will be invited to interview with the faculty (either in person or via video conference) in late February. For the Speech@Emerson program, students complete recorded interviews as part of the application process.

Students in Communication Disorders come from diverse educational backgrounds. The program accepts students who have an undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders, as well as those who do not. New graduate students must have completed foundational courses (or their equivalent at another institution) with a grade of B or better within five years of matriculation before enrolling in applied courses. Foundational courses include CD 625 , CD 626 , CD 627 , CD 628 , CD 629 , and CD 630 . On-campus students may complete foundational courses online at Emerson during the summer prior to beginning graduate work. Speech@Emerson students can complete foundational courses as part of the program during the terms prior to beginning applied graduate work. Students must earn a B or better in foundational courses before progressing to enroll in other graduate coursework. If students fail to earn a B or better in foundational courses, they will be required to retake these courses. For any questions about foundational courses, students should contact the graduate program director.

Students applying for ASHA certification must complete undergraduate-level general education courses with a passing grade of C- or better in biological science, physics or chemistry, statistics, and behavioral/social science. If these courses were not completed during an undergraduate program, they must be completed before the completion of the first year of graduate school. General education courses are not counted toward the credits required for the master’s degree.

Degree Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 54 graduate credits (and a potential maximum of 72 credit hours depending on students’ need for foundational coursework) in order to complete the Master of Science in Communication Disorders. On-campus students earn the majority of these credits during fall and spring semesters over a two-year period. The remaining credits are earned in summer and intersession courses. Speech@Emerson students determine a five-term or nine-term plan of study with their Student Success advisor; the course sequence is the same as in the on-campus program. Speech@Emerson coursework occurs during fall, spring, and summer semesters with two weekend-long, on-campus Immersions. To continue graduate study in Communication Disorders, students must maintain a B (3.0) cumulative grade point average. A student will be automatically withdrawn from the program upon earning a grade of C+ or below in any two courses, irrespective of the number of course credits involved or of the overall GPA.

When a student earns a grade of C+ or below in any course, this course must be repeated and a grade of B- or above must be achieved. A student with a GPA below 3.0 is placed on academic probation and has one semester to raise the GPA to 3.0 or better.

Clinical hours are earned each semester within a clinical placement and a student is graded for each clinical experience. A student who earns a B- (although it is a passing grade) in Clinical Practicum may not qualify for a more advanced and/or external clinical experience until a grade of B or above is earned. In addition, students whose overall GPA falls below 3.0 may lose their eligibility for an external community placement.Students must successfully complete at least five semesters of clinical practicum while enrolled in the program. Students must also fulfill the ASHA requirement to accumulate a minimum of 375 supervised clinical hours during the graduate program. Clinical Practicum placements and Clinical Methods courses are designed to parallel and support students’ development as clinicians.

Students must successfully complete three 1-credit seminars. The graduate curriculum includes these seminars in order to ensure that students have the opportunity to study areas of interest in greater depth. For the on-campus program, seminars are scheduled during winter and spring intersessions. Speech@Emerson students take seminars as part of their two Immersion experiences. Students should plan their personal schedules with the awareness that completion of the degree requires completion of these seminars outside the regular semester time periods.

On-campus students must successfully complete a comprehensive examination or a master’s thesis. On-campus students who elect to complete a master’s thesis are not required to take the comprehensive examination. However, they are required to register for 3 credits of thesis and to audit one of the 3-credit courses in their second year. Students auditing a course are expected to do the work as if enrolled in the class for credit.

Speech@Emerson students are required to complete comprehensive examinations and do not have a thesis option. For on-campus students, the comprehensive examination is administered twice a year, in January and in May; Speech@Emerson students take comprehensive examinations in their last term. If students fail any portion of the comprehensive examination at the regular administration time, they take a “rewrite” exam scheduled after the original administration date. Students who are unable to complete a comprehensive examination at the expected time due to illness or unforeseen circumstances are required to take the exam at the next administration date. In some cases, this may delay graduation, resulting in a fee for students to enroll as a Continuing Student. Specific comprehensive exam rules and procedures that apply to the administration of the exam are discussed with all students prior to the exam date, are included in the Guide to the Communication Disorders Master’s Program, are available to on-campus students on the program’s advising site, and are available to Speech@Emerson students on their Orientation site. Students who fail to pass either of the Comprehensive Exam questions (after Oral meeting and Remediation assignments) will be offered the opportunity to retake the exam two times (the original writing plus two additional times). Students are permitted to take Comprehensive Exams a maximum of three times within the five-year graduate degree time limit. Students must successfully pass all components of the comprehensive exam within the five-year graduate degree time limit.

Students must successfully complete appropriate coursework and clinical practica to meet the current academic and clinical requirements of ASHA for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology.

Additional Program Information


Academic and clinical faculty members serve as advisors to students in the program.

Clinical Practica

Clinical placements in the Communication Disorders program are arranged by the Clinical Placement Team, which includes the director of clinical education and the director of clinical placements.

Course Withdrawal Policy and Procedure

A graduate student may withdraw only one time from Clinical Practicum course (CD 605 , CD 611 , CD 612 , CD 613 , CD 614 , CD 615 ) for any reason, provided that the student first discuss the situation with the clinical supervisor(s), the director of clinical education, and the graduate program director. Official withdrawal paperwork must be signed by the director of clinical education and submitted to the Registrar.

If a student who has already withdrawn one time from a clinical course (CD 605 , CD 611 , CD 612 , CD 613 , CD 614 , CD 615 ) wishes to withdraw a subsequent time, the student must submit a written petition to the Clinical Review Board (consisting of the graduate program director, director of clinical programs, and director of clinical education) stating their reasons for seeking to withdraw.

In exercising its discretion to grant or deny such petitions, the Board will consider both whether the student has shown a compelling reason for withdrawal that the student could not have foreseen prior to the start of the semester as well as the impact that the student’s withdrawal might have upon clients.

The Board will not deem a student’s desire to avoid receiving a failing grade to be a compelling reason for the student’s withdrawal. Accordingly, absent extraordinary circumstances, the Board will deny petitions from students who are not earning a grade of B- or better at the time they petition to withdraw from the clinic.

Licenses and Certifications

See the Educator Preparation and Licensure Programs section in the back of this catalogue for information regarding licensure to work in the public schools in Massachusetts.

Elective Courses (on-campus students only)

Master’s Thesis (on-campus students only)

Students who wish to complete a master’s thesis must maintain a 3.7 GPA in their first year of the program and obtain approval of a thesis proposal by their thesis committee. If approved, students must successfully complete 3 credits of thesis work. To keep the total number of credit hours equivalent and to ensure that students learn all necessary content, master’s thesis students are required to audit one 3-credit class in their second year of the graduate program. In the course they are auditing, students must complete all required assignments with a passing grade to demonstrate competency in this area.

Clinical Practicum (Speech@Emerson students only)

As students progress through the program, they will complete clinical placements at partner sites approved by Emerson College faculty. Each course number below corresponds to a semester of clinical placement: 

Seminars (Speech@Emerson students only)

Students are required to take three 1-credit seminar courses that will occur during two on-campus immersions.