Online Masters Degree in Speech Language Pathology

Learn about online master's degree programs with speech-language pathology courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Online master's degree programs in speech-language pathology (SLP) are common. Courses may be online or offered in a hybrid format of online and on-campus study. There is a clinical experience requirement in any SLP master's program, so the degree cannot be earned completely online. Degree programs are structured so that students may study full-time or work while they earn a graduate degree. Students will be required to have specific software related to language study in order to complete course requirements.

All speech-language pathologists must be licensed by the state in which they work, and requirements vary by state. In addition to a master's degree, most states also require a clinical yearlong fellowship and a passing score on the Praxis exam. Also, regulations may vary for SLPs working in private practice versus those who work in schools. Many states require school-based SLPs to have some sort of educational certification. There are also continuing education requirements for private and school-based SLPs.

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Master's in Speech-Language Pathology

An online master's degree program in speech-language pathology is a mixture of online coursework and clinical or work experience. Hands-on experience is a necessary element of this program because SLPs diagnose and treat patients. Coursework for this major will include language disorders, including articulation, voice, fluency and aphasia.

Program Information and Requirements

Students learn about the different components of language and how it normally develops in children. They will also study how language problems can develop later from brain injury, stroke and other physical impairments. All students will have to do clinical hours. Some schools allow students to use local schools and clinics to fulfill these hours, and others prefer students to do a summer residency at a campus clinic. Schools may also require proctored exams, and if the student cannot come to the campus to take the exam, he or she must secure an educational setting where the exam can be taken under supervision of a proctor.

Online presentation of materials and discussions may be presented via message boards, multimedia clips and compressed video lectures. Students may have to download software to play these clips, such as Windows Media, QuickTime or Adobe Flash. Students may also have to download specialized programs such as Praat, which records speech sounds and allows students to analyze their waveforms. Most programs require the use of the International Phonemic Alphabet (IPA) and this requires a special set of fonts, which are available for free download.

Many graduate programs allow work experience for clinical hours, and will make arrangements for students to work with a local SLP to meet American Speech-Language-Hearing Association requirements for clinical work. Programs that do not allow for this option usually have on-campus clinics where students engage in hands-on work treating clients under supervision. This may be done in a summer residency or throughout the year, depending on the university. Finally, most online programs offer a thesis and a non-thesis option for graduation.

Course Topics

The courses that supplement the clinical component of this degree will include subjects such as these:

Language Development

Students will learn speech and language norms in order to evaluate whether or not a child is developing normally or needs services. Online coursework often involves media clips showing normal and abnormal development. Students view the clips and write up observations and treatment recommendations and apply what they have learned in a supervised practicum.

Vocal Disorders

Voice disorders coursework online will involve readings on the vocal track and common disorders. Much of voice coursework will be in-person and not online, because suspected vocal fold pathology or swallowing disorders must be referred to a medical doctor -- usually an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist -- to rule out serious diseases such as cancer. This work will be done with an SLP and ENT to perform evaluations and form treatment plans for patients, and written work will be submitted to the professor online.

Speech Science

Speech instrumentation differs from vocal disorders classes because it focuses on how SLPs measure speech, and not how it is produced. Students will listen to samples online and evaluate them with programs such as Praat, which allows them to measure the frequency of an individual's voice, and identify speech sounds through sound wave analysis.

Phonology

A phonology course will cover the linguistic principles that underlie various theories of phonological development. Online classes will present sound clips from various languages and dialects and students will use the multimedia clips to transcribe and analyze production errors via the International Phonemic Alphabet.


Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for speech-language pathologists is projected to rise faster than the national average, at a rate of 21 percent from 2014 to 2024. About 44% of speech pathologists work in schools; the rest work in hospitals, care facilities and in various therapy offices.

Student's interested in speech-language pathology can pursue master's degree programs in the field, both in a completely online and hybrid format. In-person clinical requirements are likely, though prospective students should check their state requirements as they may vary.

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