Speech-language therapists help people with communication disorders that were either present at birth or acquired later in life. Through the study of topics such as phonetics and linguistics, a Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology generally prepares students for entry- or associate-level positions.
Advanced degree programs, such as a Master of Science or Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology, allow students to further develop their theoretical knowledge as well as their clinical, leadership and problem-solving skills. These programs might only admit applicants who have work experience in clinical or educational settings and often include thesis or dissertation project requirements for graduation.
This advanced level of education is required to satisfy American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) requirements for state licensure and teacher certification. Candidates for certification must achieve a minimum score of 600 on the Praxis examination.
Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology
Applicants to a speech-language pathology bachelor's degree program must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Students in these four-year programs focus on characteristics of human communication as well as the development of speech, hearing and language functions. They also learn to recognize, assess and treat communication disorders.
These programs are generally comprised of both classroom study and clinical experiences. Courses cover the characteristics of speech, language and hearing disorders as well as basic treatment approaches. Students are trained to design and administer an appropriate therapy program for clients. Subjects in the speech-language pathology curriculum include:
- Characteristics of communication disorders
- Basic audiology
- American Sign Language
Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
Master's degree candidates in a speech-language pathology program study advanced theoretical and clinical skills in human communication and related disorders. Applicants to these programs typically must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0.
Students in this program learn the latest techniques in treating voice, fluency and articulation disorders. They may earn either a Master of Arts or Master of Science. Classes combine theoretical and practical knowledge into clinical practice while providing training related to treating people with communication disorders. A clinical practicum that provides students with real-world experiences in diagnosing, assessing and treating communication disorders is generally required to satisfy the degree curriculum. Subjects typically included in a speech-language pathology program are:
- Early childhood language development and disorders
- Diagnostic methods
- Clinical management principles
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Speech-Language Pathology
Candidates for doctoral programs in speech-language pathology must hold a master's degree in speech-language pathology or a related discipline, such as audiology, linguistics or psychology, from an accredited college or university. In this advanced program, candidates analyze, evaluate and apply research-based theories to their current work environment or develop best practices for devising programs and strategies to assist people with communications disorders. Most commonly available as Ph.D. programs, prospective students may also wish to investigate Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology or Doctor of Audiology programs.
Candidates generally work with their program advisors to create an individualized study plan to meet their research and academic needs in order to formulate their doctoral dissertation. Possible areas of study for Ph.D. programs in speech-language pathology include:
- Statistics and experimental design
- Speech and hearing science
- Evaluation and therapy of articulation disorders
- Business management and leadership
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a master's degree program with ASHA certification and state licensure can then in such settings as schools, clinics, governmental agencies and research facilities. Some career options include:
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment of speech-language pathologists will grow 21% for the years 2014-2024. The BLS reported in May 2015 that the mean annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $76,900.
Coursework for a speech-language pathology program typically covers diagnostic methods and treatment approaches for a range of communication disorders. Students who obtain a graduate degree in this field can sit for the certification exams required to work as therapists, audiologists or pathologists.