Online Masters in Speech Communication: Degree Program Overviews

Speech-language pathologists and speech therapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat speech disorders. Usually, a master's degree is required to enter the field; online master's programs can prepare students for successful speech pathology careers.

Essential Information

Several schools offer online master's degree programs in speech communication, often called speech-language pathology. These programs generally require about three years of study. Students may be able to complete their work entirely online, but some schools require a few on-campus courses or practicum experiences. Students can usually access online courses at their own convenience, and on-campus requirements may be scheduled in the summer to accommodate a teacher's work calendar.

When selecting an online degree program, students should make sure it satisfies the licensure requirements for their career goal. State requirements vary, but all public school educators and speech-language practitioners in the medical field must be licensed. Students will also want to ensure that any program they select meets the certification standards of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Courses in a master's-level program in speech communications vary somewhat, depending on the student's field of interest. All programs cover speech and language development; the physiology and anatomy of speech; hearing and language; voice and swallowing disorders; and audiology. Students learn about computer applications for communication disorders and become familiar with research techniques. They get hands-on experience during supervised clinical practice.

Overview of an Online Master's Degree Program in Speech Communication

Master-level speech communications students learn communicative behavior topics such as speech development and science, hearing science, language functions, phonetics, acoustics, anatomy and physiology. Online program prerequisites are typically identical to those of a campus-based program; these include a bachelor's degree with a minimum grade point average, letters of recommendation, transcripts from previous coursework and the scores from a pre-admission test, such as the Graduation Record Examination (GRE).

Program Information and Requirements

These master's degree programs take approximately 36 months to complete, although length may be flexible since students can make their own schedules in a distance-learning program. Some schools require on-campus study to round out a speech communication program.

Students must have access to a personal computer and Internet Service Provider (ISP) for access to online courses. Some schools also require a compact disc or video player to view course materials.

List of Common Online Courses

Exact courses vary by school, but in any master-level speech communication program, emphasis is placed on communication disorders, speech pathology and professional skill development for working directly with patients. Sample classes are described below.

Language Disorders Course

This course covers speech disorders such as deafness, autism and retardation. It also explores current developments in cultural issues and psycholinguistic research, and how they relate to treatment.

Disorders of Speech and Swallowing Course

Students explore theory, research, assessment and treatment of swallowing and speech impairments. They also study head and neck, pharyngeal, esophageal and neurogenic velopharyngeal disorders.

Pediatric Audiology Course

Hearing assessment for children and the management of youth auditory disorders are covered in this class. Lessons also discuss pathologies and testing, auditory mechanism development, developmental milestones, diagnosis and treatment.

Career Information for Graduates

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Speech Pathologists earned a median annual wage of $62,930 as of May 2008. The highest ten percent earned more than $99,220 and the lowest ten percent earned less than $41,240 per year on average. In 2008, speech-language pathologists held about 119,300 jobs (

Continuing Education Information

Most states require speech-language pathologists to hold a license. Although only a master's degree is needed in most instances to obtain licensure, many colleges and universities offer doctoral degree programs that are accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation or American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Speech. Passing a national examination and completing 300-375 hours of clinical experience--as well as nine months of post-graduate experience--are also normal requirements. Continuing education may be needed to maintain a speech-language pathology license.

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