How to Become a Speech Therapist: Education and Career Information

Jan 27, 2020

Learn how to become a speech therapist. Research the education requirements, licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in speech therapy.

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  • 0:01 Do I Want to Be a…
  • 0:39 Job Requirements
  • 1:22 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:56 Earn a Credential & Licensure
  • 4:14 Continue Education

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Do I Want to Be a Speech Therapist?

Speech therapists, also known as 'speech-language pathologists', diagnose and treat disorders that affect speech, such as those that prevent proper production of speech sounds, create fluency or rhythm problems, cause swallowing problems, or affect an individual's ability to process speech. These professionals often work in a clinical setting, but also might work in medical facilities, schools, research and development labs, or even clients' homes. Some work on a contract basis and might spend a great deal of time traveling from one facility to another.

Job Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field(s) Speech pathology
License/Certification Licensure equired in most states; voluntary certifications available
Experience Practicum
Key Skills Compassion and patience; critical thinking, speaking, listening, and writing skills; knowledge of medical software such as Avaaz Innovations Interactive Voice Analysis System, language analysis software, and spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel; bilingual a plus
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $80,700 (for speech-language pathologists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A master's degree is the minimum education needed to become a speech therapist. Licensing is required in most states. Speech therapists must demonstrate compassion, patience, and critical thinking skills. Speech therapists also must possess excellent speaking, listening, and writing skills. Additionally, they need knowledge of medical software such as Avaaz Innovations Interactive Voice Analysis System, language analysis software, and spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel.

As of May 2018, speech-language pathologists earned a mean annual wage of $80,700, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

There is no specific undergraduate major required to become a speech-language pathologist; however, a degree in communications or speech and hearing sciences might be most pertinent for a career in speech therapy. Additionally, these majors usually provide students with the prerequisite courses needed for admission to a graduate-level speech therapy program.

Earn a Master's Degree in Speech and Language Pathology

Every state's speech therapist licensure requirements include a master's degree. A master's degree program in speech pathology introduces students to concepts such as voice articulation, phonology, literacy, and neurological substrates. Additionally, students are sometimes permitted to specialize in early intervention, providing therapy to school-aged children, or neurogenic disorders.

Supervised clinical practicums are an important component of these degree programs. In these practicums, graduate students diagnose and treat patients from different linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Graduate students also might want to become bilingual. Speech therapists fluent in more than one language might have better career outlooks because they can work with more clients. Elective courses in a foreign language can assist an aspiring speech-language pathologist to develop extensive second-language skills.

Additionally, aspiring speech therapists might opt to participate in a clinical fellowship. A fellowship typically lasts 36 weeks and requires a participant to work full-time for the duration.

Earn a Credential and Licensure

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) offers credentialing for speech therapists in academic programs, clinical practice, continuing education, and clinical specialty recognition. The ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) satisfies all or part of the licensure requirements in most states. Additionally, some employers require that speech therapists possess this credential. To earn it, applicants must complete 400 hours of supervised clinical experience and have a master's degree.

Additionally, individuals who have a graduate degree with major emphasis in speech-language pathology might become certified by the Council for Clinical Certification, which issues certificates of clinical competence for both audiology and speech-language pathology.

Speech-language pathologists also need to earn a license in order to practice. While the CCC-SLP credential satisfies requirements in most states, others have their own requirements for licensure. A master's degree in speech-language pathology, a designated number of supervised clinical practicum hours, and passage of an exam are common requirements.

Continue Education

Some states require that speech therapists continue their education to maintain licensure. Continuing education requirements can be satisfied by completing classes, seminars, or workshops. Attending these opportunities also helps speech therapists stay current on industry standards and trends.

Speech therapists also might want to consider joining a professional organization. Membership in a professional organization can provide networking opportunities and access to continuing education credits. Credentialing organizations, such as ASHA, often offer these groups.

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