We are pleased to announce that Benjamin Munson, Ph.D., will be
joining us as our guest chat host tonight, Monday, February 4, 2002.
Dr. Munson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication
Disorders at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. He will
lead us in a chat about Doctoral Programs in Speech-Language Pathology
and careers in research/teaching. Dr. Munson teaches undergraduate
courses in phonetics, speech science, and speech disorders, and a graduate
course in assessment and treatment of phonological disorders. His research
interests include phonology and speech perception and word recognition in
adults with cochlear implants. Dr. Munson's research has appeared in the
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Journal of Experimental
Child Psychology, and Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
<Robin > Welcome! Tonight we are chatting with Dr. Ben Munson about Ph.D. programs in SLP and careers in research.
<Susan> I look forward especially to the information on the careers!
<Robin> Dr. Munson, please give us some general information about Ph.D. programs in speech-language pathology.
<Ben Munson> The Ph.D. prepares individuals for careers in teaching and research.
<Ben Munson> Ph.D. programs typically focus on training in those two areas, through a mix of coursework, independent studies, and research projects.
<Ben Munson> Ph.D. programs culminate with the student completing a large, independent research project, which is written in a document called a dissertation.
<Ben Munson> In general, Ph.D. programs offer a great deal of flexibility. Students usually come in to programs with a broad area of interest in mind, and they choose a mentor to work with.
<Adrienne> Is there a good way to go about narrowing it down?
<Ben Munson> Good question, Adrienne.
<Ben Munson> The mentor guides the student's research, usually by involving the student first in their line of research, then mentoring students' independent projects.
<Ben Munson> Narrowing down your area of interest can be difficult. Students usually enter Ph.D. programs because they're really curious, and often times people can get in the "I want to study everything" mindset.
<Susan> Can you give an example of a research project or the area in which the reasearch is in?
<Ben Munson> The best way to narrow down an area is to focus on small, tractable research projects that you can do in a reasonable (i.e., 1 year) time period, rather than a large, nebulous project with no clear end point.
<Robin> Do students generally start their Ph.D. program right after their Masters is completed?
<Ben Munson> Robin, most students in our discipline wait after they get their M.A.s. Many go on to do a CF year, and to practice clinically.
<Ben Munson> I was the exception to the rule. I went directly on to my Ph.D.
<Susan> May I ask what you did your research on?
<Ben Munson> Susan, I do research on phonological development in children. My research primarily focuses on the relationships among word learning, speech perception, and speech production in typically developing children and children with phonological disorders.
<Ben Munson> A good example of my research is in the August 2001 issue of the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
<bartduluth> Would you have rather waited to get your Ph. D. or you glad you went on right away for it?
<Ben Munson> There are pros and cons to each approach. Often times students really benefit from a CF year because it helps them focus their area of interest (relating back to Adrienne's question).
<Ben Munson> Bart, to answer your question: 90% of me is glad that I went right on to my Ph.D. I had a strong momentum going in my M.A. program, and I was able to continue with a number of projects that I had started during my MA program.
<Ben Munson> The other 10% of me regrets the decision, because I ultimately never completed a CFY, even though I had completed all of my ASHA graduate clinic hours.
<Ben Munson> I'm very happy with my job right now, so all's well that ends well!
<Adrienne> What do you think about doing your CFY during your dissertation?
<Ben Munson> Completing a CFY during your doctoral program is not impossible. In fact, we have a number of students at the University of Minnesota who are doing just that.
<Ben Munson> I wouldn't recommend doing one during the dissertation, but I think it would be absoultely fine doing a part-time CFY during the first few years of your Ph.D. program.
<bartduluth> How long does the dissertation generally take?
<Ben Munson> The length of your dissertation depends on many things. Mine took about a year to write. I've heard of people taking as long as 2 years. I was fortunate to have a well-defined topic and a very supportive advisor, Dr. Jan Edwards at Ohio State.
<Susan> Is it a requirement to have your Ph.D to teach at the college level, or is the Master's sufficient?
<Ben Munson> Susan, that depends on the program.
<Ben Munson> At the "R1" or "Research 1" universities--large research-oriented universities like University of Minnesota--a Ph.D. is pretty much required to teach.
<Ben Munson> Some smaller universities and colleges do hire M.A.-level individuals to teach. Very often, these individuals do a mix of teaching and clinical supervision.
<Ben Munson> If you look at the job ads on the Council of Academic Programs website http://www.capcsd.org, you see that most require a Ph.D.
<bartduluth> Is there a high demand for professors?
<Ben Munson> Bart, there is an extremely high demand for professors.
<Ben Munson> Our fields are in crisis right now. A large percentage of Comm. Dis. faculty members are retiring, and there aren't enough new Ph.D.s to fill the job slots.
<Robin> What is the salary range?
<Ben Munson> For a new Ph.D.? That's a good question.
<Ben Munson> With a Ph.D., salaries for a new assistant professor range from about 47k to 54k at big universities.
<Ben Munson> Smaller universities might pay 42k to 47k.
<Ben Munson> 54k would be for a relatively experienced assistant professor, coming in with a few publications.
<Ben Munson> Some colleges, unfortunately, still pay quite low salaries. I saw a job ad the other day that said "salary range, 32k to 50k." 32k! For a Ph.D.!
<Ben Munson> On the plus side, universities almost always have excellent benefits packages. My benefits at the University of Minnesota are phenomenal, and we have very good salaries compared to many other comparably sized universities.
<Susan> It might be tempting to go for a PHD right away after the master's program regardless of the low salaries, with our current intolerable caseloads.
<Ben Munson> There are a number of ways that professors can increase their salaries. They can write grants to pay for summer salary. I had two months of summer salary last year, which boosted my yearly salary by about 20%.
<bartduluth> Do many SLPs with Ph.D.s continue clinically? If they are not teaching, where exactly do they do their researching?
<Ben Munson> Well, Bart, here in Minnesota we have an excellent example of a clinical institution with many Ph.D.-level SLPs: The Mayo Clinic.
<Ben Munson> There are a number of SLPs, including Dr. Joe Duffy and Dr. Edythe Strand, who work as clinicians and researchers.
<bartduluth> That is right in my home town, I am actually trying to get a job there for the summer.
<Ben Munson> Bart, you should write to Dr. Strand and see if she needs research assistants.
<Ben Munson> Mayo has a large postdoctoral training program, so Drs. Duffy and Strand get to mentor new Ph.D.s in addition.
<Ben Munson> Many VA hospitals have research programs, too. The speech department of the VA hospital in Martinez, CA, has a research program headed by Dr. Nina Dronkers.
<Ben Munson> The Mayo Clinic's audiology program is excellent too.
<Robin > Many hospital programs including the VA programs are run by SLPs with their Ph.D.
<Ben Munson> True. There are some benefits to having a Ph.D. when working in medical speech- language pathology.
<Susan> It sounds like once you get the Ph.D. you have a lot less "hand's on" with clients.
<Ben Munson> Susan, I think that a Ph.D. can have hands-on time with clients if they choose. Drs. Strand and Duffy see lots of patients down at Mayo.
<Ben Munson> While I don't do clinic work, I do have lots of contact with my target population, children with phonological disorders, in my research.
<Robin > Dr. Munson, how long does it take to complete a Ph.D. program, dissertation and all?
<Ben Munson> The whole shebang? Again, it depends. From my M.A. graduation to my Ph.D. graduation was 2 years, 8 months. My case was somewhat exceptional: I chose not to sleep for nearly three years.
<Robin> LOL!!! That was FAST!!!
<Ben Munson> Most people take about 4 years, post-M.A. I think this is a reasonable pace.
<Adrienne> Wow!!! That is the shortest I've heard
<Adrienne> yeah, I've heard 4
<Ben Munson> It was insane. That "no sleeping" comment was not sarcasm.
<Ben Munson> The real reason that I was able to do it in so short a time period was because I had done doctoral work in linguistics before I even started my M.A. program in speech-language pathology.
By the time I got to the Ph.D. program, I was done with almost all of my coursework.
<Ben Munson> The 2 years, 8 months was basically the time it took to do a pre-dissertation research project, and my dissertation.
<Susan> So, overall you are in school for a total of about 8 years, and starting salary at some instituations is 32K to 47K? That doesn't seem right.
<Ben Munson> Well, Susan, that's the reality. The salaries for professors are driven by the market, and in most fields there are huge surpluses of Ph.D.-level individuals.
<Ben Munson> We are the exception.
<Ben Munson> Still, even at that salary range, I'm very happy, because I do a job I love. Every day I get paid to think and to do the projects of my choosing. It's like a dream come true.
<Susan> It does sound quite a bit nicer than the educational SLP system now. You have a lot more control over what you are able to do with a PhD, it seems like.
<Ben Munson> Susan, having a Ph.D. allows a person enormous flexibility and freedom. There are great responsibilities: I am expected to be a productive, careful researcher, and an excellent teacher.
At the same time, I have this wonderful freedom to work on what I want to work on.
<Erika> Well, I know that PhD's are at low levels right now in our field...what kind of admission standards are there, in general?
<Robin> Good Question, Erika...we haven't touched on that yet.
<Ben Munson> Erika: my impression is that the admissions standards for Ph.D. programs are every bit as rigorous as they ever were.
<Ben Munson> It's hard to generalize what the criteria are for admission, because every program is different. When in doubt, contact the director of graduate studies at the university you are interested in.
<Ben Munson> A list of graduate programs, along with contact people, can be found at http://professional.asha.org/academic/doctoral_guide.cfm
<bartduluth> Where did you complete your Ph. D.?
<Ben Munson> Bart, I went to The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes!
<Ben Munson> Erika, did I answer your question?
<Erika> yes. thank you
<bartduluth> Thank you Dr. Munson for your time, but I need to go here. You answered alot of questions for me tonight! Thanks!
<Robin> Dr. Munson, as part of the Ph.D. program, is there instruction in how to teach effectively?
<Susan> I'm really glad Robin asked that one!
<Ben Munson> Robin, many universities have courses in teaching at the college level. For example, my department at the University of Minnesota has a course on college-level teaching.
In addition, our Ph.D. students do two "curricular teaching" assignments, in which they assist a professor by teaching 2 or 3 weeks of a course. The professor gives them feedback on their
teaching material and lecture delivery.
<Adrienne> at FSU we are required to co-teach a class, including designing the assignments, tests, lectures, etc.
<Ben Munson> I was lucky in that I got to teach 3 times in my graduate programs. In the UCLA linguistics program I taught the labs for experimental phonetics.
<Ben Munson> At Ohio State I solo-taught the entire phonetics undergraduate class twice.
<Ben Munson> So Adrienne, it sounds like FSU is a lot like Minnesota.
<Adrienne> We are also required to take a supervised research course at FSU, is that pretty standard in Ph.D. programs?
<Ben Munson> Please describe the course, Adrienne.
<Adrienne> From what I understand... you design and carry out a research project- often a trial for your dissertation research.
<Adrienne> It's a lot like my undergrad honors thesis, or a master's thesis.
<Ben Munson> At Minnesota (and at Ohio State, too), we have Ph.D. students do laboratory rotations. Students must work in I believe at least 2 different faculty labs during their Ph.D. program.
<Adrienne> That would be good to see two styles.
<Ben Munson> The hope is that the lab rotations will give the students a broad range of experiences. But the lab rotations don't have a course associated with them. It's more like mentored research.
<Adrienne> professors can do things so differently even than each other!
<Susan> I need to sign off. Thank you for the illumination on the other options out there!
<Ben Munson> Good night, Susan. Glad you could join us.
<Ben Munson> I continue to force myself to nose around in other people's labs to learn new tools to use in my own research.
<Ben Munson> For example, a current research project I'm completing was designed by talking to colleagues in audiology.
<Robin> Dr. Munson, do faculty members encourage certain students to pursue their Ph.D.?
<Robin> and if so, what qualities would you be looking for in a student?
<Erika> I like that question.
<Robin> thanks :-)
<Ben Munson> Some people have advocated that we should deal with the Ph.D. shortage by identifying research-savvy students early on (i.e., in undergrad), and encouraging them to pursue Ph.D.s Ohio State certainly does that.
<Ben Munson> If I were going to identify a student, I would try to find someone with the qualities that you need to be a successful professor:
<Ben Munson> extremely self-motivated, detail-oriented, and creative.
<Ben Munson> They need to be excellent written communicators, since writing is a huge part of research.
<Ben Munson> I think self-motivation, orientation to detail, and creativity are the most important traits.
<Ben Munson> Ability to take constructive criticism is also very important. It's a skill that I took a while to learn.
<Robin> This has been an excellent chat! Thank you to Dr. Ben Munson for sharing your experiences and insights into the Ph.D. program and careers in research in Speech-Language Pathology.
<Ben Munson> There is also something hard to put your finger on: You want to identify the students that seem genuinely excited about ideas. The people who seem to be good at research--
and to love it--are the ones who just love to think. I think that's a great closing line! Thanks for joining us!
<Adrienne> Thank you!!
<Ben Munson> You're very welcome.
<Adrienne> I hope more students consider going on to PhDs!
<Ben Munson> I'll wish you good night, then. Don't hesitate to call on me if I can assist you in the future.