Prospective Students

AAC at Penn State

The AAC community at Penn State is one of the largest AAC-focused efforts in the world, with a wide range of  research activities, coursework,  and clinical experiences.
Students at Penn State have the opportunity to:
• participate in graduate level coursework on  AAC taught by nationally recognized faculty,
•  assist in research projects designed to improve the lives of individuals with complex communication needs, and
• provide clinical services to  individuals with complex communication needs  in clinical and community settings.

Penn State students also have participated in our Global AAC Initiative, and worked with AAC teams in Mexico, South Africa, Eastern Europe, India, and China.


Graduates from our Masters program work as certified speech-language pathologists in  schools, acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, and in private practice.

Graduates from our Doctoral program  work at universities across the country. As  faculty they are training the next generation of speech-language pathologists, and conducting research to improve the lives of individuals with complex communication needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What courses are offered in AAC at Penn State?

We have AAC courses at all levels: undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels. Topics include:

  • Introduction to AAC
  • Sign language
  • Assessment and Intervention in Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Research-based intervention to improve language and communication outcomes for beginning communicators who require AAC
  • Research-based intervention to improve language and literacy outcomes for individuals who require AAC
  • Evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes for high need children with complex communication needs: Influences of poverty & cultural differences
  • Universal design: Supporting access to the general curriculum for individuals with complex communication needs
  • Assistive technology /apps for individuals with complex communication needs
  • Enriching AAC interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities through cross disciplinary collaboration
  • Strategies for working effectively with consumers with complex communication needs, parents, and families

Are there Internet-based or distance learning opportunities?

The Penn State AAC community and the AAC-RERC program have produced a wide range of webcasts/web-seminars and resources available for free to support continuing education and dialogue about critical issues for communicators with complex needs.

The program specific to PhD scholars has been designed to be comprehensive and provide focused, individualized, direct experiences across education (coursework and teaching), research, and leadership skills.  Master’s students participate in extensive coursework with an emphasis on preparation for teamwork and collaborative problem solving, direct instruction and experiences with the full range of multimodal strategies and supports, research on evidence-based interventions, and clinical practicum with focused supervision on campus and within nearby community placements.  There is a deep commitment to the value of mentorship throughout each of these areas and all levels of learning.   At this time, the PSU AAC Community feels strongly that these goals are best served through on-site learning and support.

What research  opportunities are available at Penn State?

Students are actively involved in a wide range of AAC research projects. Students assist with all aspects of research, including identifying important issues for research, designing research projects, working with participants, collecting data, and conducting data analysis. Many students will write a research paper or thesis based on the research outcomes. Student contributions are recognized in journal publication and conference presentation activities.

What funding is available for students?

There are multiple options to support graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders:

• The Penn State AAC Leadership Project, a federally funded doctoral level training grant (#H325D110008) designed to prepare high quality doctoral students in AAC as researchers/ university faculty.

  • Doctoral funding is also available through departmental assistantships. These graduate assistantships provide full tuition and a monthly stipend, but also include a 20 hour/week work commitment as research or teaching assistants.  These experiences are carefully designed to enhance competencies in research and teaching.

• The Penn State Children’s Communicative Competence Project, a federally funded training grant (#H325K110315) designed to prepare Masters level speech language pathologists in the specialized competencies required to provide high quality AAC services to children with complex communication needs and their families.

How do I find out more information about the departments and apply for graduate programs?

For more information about the graduate programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders, click here.

To apply for graduate studies in Communication Sciences and Disorders, click here.

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