Speech pathology degree students learn to understand speech disorders, fluency problems and other impairments in communication. Along with course work, many offer fieldwork to gain practical experience. Programs are available online as well as on campus.
Prerequisites depend on the degree level. Admission to a bachelor's degree program requires a high school diploma or equivalent while admission to a master's or doctorate program typically entails a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and acceptable GRE scores.
Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
A bachelor's degree program in speech pathology, or speech-language pathology, introduces students to language processes and communication disorders. Students explore the development of normal and abnormal speech and hearing. They investigate areas of language, communication and speech. Courses aim to address not only the ways disabilities affect individuals, but also effective treatments.
Programs offer students internships and externships to develop skills. A Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology can be achieved in approximately four years. Those interested in pursuing a degree in speech pathology at the baccalaureate level need to hold a high school diploma or achieve satisfactory results on the GED test.
In addition to general education coursework, speech pathology students complete core courses in language development and speech disorders. Some programs also include hands-on clinical components. Typically courses students encounter include:
- Brain and language
- Literacy and literacy development
- Vocal mechanisms
Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
At the master's level, students take advanced coursework in psychology, language development and acoustics. Students complete clinical hours for practical experience working with patients of all ages. Individuals may have the opportunity to expand their program in a certain area, such as language disorders, voice disorders or medical disorders, through electives and internships.
In order to pursue a master's degree in speech pathology, applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree program. A major in speech pathology, communication or a related field may be preferred, but it is not required. Prospective students may need to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, along with letters of recommendation.
A master's degree in speech pathology program provides students with an understanding of both theory and practice related to speech disorders through clinical investigation. Classes explore human development, ethics, research, therapeutic management and current research in the field. Thesis and non-thesis tracks may be available. Speech pathology coursework may include:
- Language disorders
- Articulation disorders
Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology
Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology programs focus on applied sciences and research, while offering students the option to individualize their programs with an emphasis area. In most programs, students participate in hands-on learning experiences through clinical studies.
As with most doctorate programs, many speech pathology programs require students to complete a dissertation on relevant research, as well as candidacy exams.
Doctoral students in speech pathology programs take coursework on research methods, experimental design and a variety of disorders. Through lectures and seminars, students may study:
- Communication disorders
- Sensory processes
- Clinical administration
- Grant writing
Popular Career Options
Speech pathology involves identifying and treating speech and language disorders that result from disabilities and diseases. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in speech pathology may choose to become speech pathology aides and work under a licensed pathologist. Common career paths may include the following.
- Language pathology assistant
- Treatment plan coordinator
Graduates who obtain a doctorate degree have the practical expertise and theoretical knowledge in rehabilitation and education to qualify for research, academic and clinical careers. More specifically, individuals may find positions as:
- Clinical practice administrators
- University or college educators
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), speech-language pathologists will see an employment change of 21%, which is much faster than average, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that there were 131,450 speech-language pathologists employed in May 2015 earning median annual wages of $73,410.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
In order to practice, graduates must pass the standardized examination for speech pathology offered by the Praxis Series of the Educational Testing Service. Individuals must have completed a certain number of clinical hours to be eligible for licensure; however, this number may vary by state. Some states require continuing education to keep licensure current. Additional nationally recognized certification is offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
From a bachelor's to a doctorate, there are multiple levels of degrees for students to earn to work as a speech pathologist. Bachelor's degrees are ideal for entry level positions while a more advanced degree gives opportunity to explore more complex courses and expand into research.