Studying Audiology in the UK (Tips for locals and foreigners)

Just become an audiologist

Why not? Most western societies have ageing populations which gives you job stability. The pay’s enough to get you by (about £21k – 41k on the NHS) and the hours are good (37.5h). The job its self is rewarding and you feel like you’re making a difference. And, with the current pace that the technology’s advancing at you’ll be on a constant learning curve which should keep you from getting bored (and it’s not looking likely to slow down any time soon). All in all, many people agree that Audiology is quite a great career choice.

A word to the wise: scientific careers in the UK have/ are rapidly changing and it would be very good for you to read up on Modernising Scientific Careers and what it could mean for you. Have a look here and here to start with. It’s important because there are lots of paths to the same destination and others which won’t take you the full way. For example, reading an MSc in Audiology doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically legally allowed to practice in the clinic. I really wished I had someone to clearly explain what was going on when I started studying, so I’m hoping this post will help future students by clearing up some of the questions. Lets get started at the final destination, panic a bit about money and then think about the journey in between.

Where can audiology training take me?

I can easily think of four endpoints that are specifically related to audiology but there are probably more. I imagine most people wanting to study audiology will want to stick to audiologist-related careers like the ones below but acquiring the skills associated with tertiary education should open up plenty of other less specific routes. 

  1. Become an audiologist: People with a BSc, PGDip, or MSc can complete the NHS Practotioner Training Programme (PTP) and get accreditation from the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP). They can then work in the assessment and intervention of hearing and balance disorders.
  2. Become a clinical scientist of audiology: The Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) registration route is for those with an MSc Audiology and 4 years experience and includes assessment by the Association of Clinical Scientists (ACS). This allows them to be registered as ‘Clinical Scientist in Audiology’. 
  3. Join the dark side: There’s a booming private sector where people can practice audiology (which again requires PTP accreditation and possibly hearing aid dispensing qualification). There’s also development, training, marketing or support of various hearing and balance technologies. The pays here can typically get bigger than an NHS salary and there are loads of interesting opportunities.
  4. Become an academic in audiology: Academics are the people who go on to do PhDs and Postdoctoral studies with the scope of becoming professors or to simply gain a competitive edge in the earlier options I mentioned. 

Where am I going to get the money from?

So yeah if you’re studying in the UK, it’s going to cost you. Gone are the days where you can get an undergraduate qualification courtesy of the government. However, student finance is available to most Europeans wishing to study in the UK and who have the grades for it. Also, certain NHS trusts may or may not offer bursaries to help out undergraduates in audiology however this is definitely not guaranteed so don’t count on it. Have a look for alternate non-specific finding routes. I’m from tiny Malta but I was able to get funding for an MSc from this local funding opportunity. If you have the grades and are willing to suffer through the bureaucracy and incredible tedium of scholarship applications, you will probably find a way. Please don’t just give up without trying – there are way too many people with Impostor syndrome for you to join that crowd.

There is another possibility to get full audiologist training and be paid a salary at the same time, if you already have a bachelors degree. You need to get onto the Scientist Training Program (STP) organised by the National School of Healthcare Science. However, this is a VERY competitive scheme and people with a master’s degree or higher are in a better position to get onto the program.

Will it be harder since I’m not from the UK?

There will be challenges but you would be on pretty equal grounds with everyone else starting the course: mainly that you are now living away from home and studying in a new system. (That’s what the first year of university of for and why the first year of university doesn’t count towards your final grade).  Adjusting, and learning how to become an autonomous learner are the main goals.

I have disabilities, mental health problems or specific learning difficulties.

The UK is great because almost all universities offer interpreting and transcription services for deaf and hard of hearing students to help them in difficult hearing environments. This applies for all sorts of people with difficulties and is probably one of the strongest pros of studying in the UK. They are considerate and try to level the playing ground. I would strongly recommend that you look into these and consider getting them even if you feel that you may not need them. If you’re not offered the help, ask for it. 

When should I apply to University?

The undergraduate and STP applications are similar centralised systems of application. At undergraduate level, you will need to apply through the UCAS systemI recommend that you apply to your universities of interest (you get to choose 3) by the end of September (latest during October) in order to be accepted for a course that would begin in October the following year.

For the STP it’s the Oriel system run by the NSHCS. There are two routes to enter the STP: Direct entry applications (when you’re not part of the NHS) need to be completed by the end of December. In Service applications (when you’re already part of the NHS) close at the end of February. You can select the entry point once you’re on the Oriel system. You get no choice where to study when you’re on the STP.

Master’s degrees are the odd one’s out. You apply directly to your university of choice and should do it usually during September.

Which University should I apply to?

Universities that offer the BSc in Audiology:  Aston University, De Montfort University, University of Leeds, University of Manchester and University of Southampton. The most popular are ranking systems for UK universities are the Guardian and the Complete University guideNow, I would (for obvious reasons) recommend Southampton as a great place to study, but it really depends on what you want to do. I feel that Southampton and Manchester provide some the best research in the field but Southampton is the best university in general (about 14th in the UK). Aston is a better ‘healthcare university’. Another point is that only Southampton and Manchester also have cochlear implant centres as part of the university. 

All the aforementioned universities and UCL also offer an MSc degree. UCL has the best overall university score from all the universities which I’ve listed here. Can’t find an MSc Audiology at all the universities that I’ve mentioned? That’s probably because they’ve got it listed as an MSc Clinical Science (Neurosensory Sciences).

Make sure to also consider the university location: Southampton is nice but boring (great for studying), Manchester is industrial but more exciting, and Birmingham is… Birmingham (just kidding it’s another great city). Check the websites of universities to see when they are if you could afford the visit. A visit really is recommended.

Have I got what it takes? 

You need to get certain levels of grades (unless you really manage to impress the course coordinator in an arranged meeting). Most universities require the following qualifications: Grade C English and Maths on your GCSE certificate, AAB in A-levels (with at least one science related subject) or AABBB on your Irish Leaving Certificate (with at least two relevant science subjects) or 34 points overall, with 17 points in at least one Science subject on your International Baccalaureate. If you’re interested in reading for an MSc, a 2:2 degree or equivalent is probably the minimum requirement. A first in your undergraduate is degree is probably the minimum to get on the STP.

Besides qualifications, ask yourself if you want to be in a helping profession, if you like gadgets, if you want to be a scientist and if you’re ready to get down to work. If you are, get going!

Pro tip: Have you just finished you A-levels and got some free time? Try do some voluntary work (maybe with a charity that helps deaf people) or a placement in a clinic or service. It will make your CV stand out. It will also give you the opportunity to see a bit better if you like the idea of becoming an audiologist. Good luck!

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