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Degree in Speech Therapy: Overview of Degrees by Program Level

Oct 26, 2019

Students interested in becoming speech pathologists can find degree programs in speech language pathology at many levels. Students can earn an associate's, bachelor's, or masters in speech pathology, and options at the doctoral level are also available.

Overview of Speech Therapy Degrees

The field of speech pathology examines issues and disorders related to speech, language and listening. A speech pathologist works with people of all ages to identify and address problems with oral speaking techniques and patterns, vocabulary, sentence structure and swallowing. Individuals interested in earning a degree in this area can find options at many levels from associate's degrees to doctoral programs.

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, certificate, master's, doctoral
Job Requirements Licensure required in most states for speech-language pathologists
Median Salary (2018) $77,510* (for speech-language pathologists)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 27%* (for speech-language pathologists)
  • Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Levels in Speech Therapy

Associate's Degrees in Speech Therapy

Associate's degree programs in speech pathology can prepare individuals to become speech-language pathology assistants. These professionals are supervised by speech-language pathologists and work directly with clients dealing with speech and language problems. Often offered through community colleges, these programs can take approximately two years to complete. Students take classes in communication disorders, language development, phonetics, and related areas. They may also have the opportunity to complete fieldwork.

Bachelor's Degrees in Speech Therapy

At the undergraduate level, students can find relevant degree programs in areas including speech pathology and audiology, speech and language pathology, and speech and hearing sciences. These programs often seek to prepare students for graduate work. Students at this level learn foundational theories and research paradigms that guide the study of speech, language, and hearing. They learn to assess clients and collect and analyze data related to speech disorders. In addition to core classes, undergraduate speech pathology programs include courses in speech physiology, hearing science, diagnostics, and language pathology. They may also complete an internship before graduation.

Certificates in Speech Therapy

Students who have completed an undergraduate degree can pursue a graduate certificate in speech-language pathology. Certificate programs may prepare students for careers as speech-language pathology assistants. These programs may be tailored toward speech-language careers in a particular area such as K-12 education. Graduates from such programs are prepared to work in schools as assistants under the guidance of a certified speech-language pathologist. Curricula in certificate programs usually include foundational coursework in the field including assessing clients and designing interventions, and students may gain hands-on experience working with clients as well.

Master's Degrees in Speech Therapy

Students who wish to become certified speech-language pathologists should complete a master's degree in the field. Flexible speech therapist degree program formats are available, including part-time options and online course offerings. Students who pursue a master's in speech pathology full-time can expect to spend two years completing the degree. Coursework prepares students in areas including articulation, audiology, speech problems, language development, swallowing issues, and language fluency. In addition to coursework, master's students usually complete a series of practicums.

Doctoral Degrees in Speech Therapy

After completing a master's degree, students who wish to continue their education can enter a doctoral program in speech-language pathology. Programs at this level emphasize research in the field and provide instruction in research methods and data collection and analysis. Doctoral students are encouraged to specialize in a particular area relevant to their practice, and they may need to acquire hands-on experience or complete a final research project in this area. At this level, students may also take coursework in aspects of leadership and business to prepare them for advanced positions in the field.

Career Information for Speech Pathologists

In May 2018, the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $77,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS predicts employment in the field will grow by 27% between 2018 and 2028. This fast rate of growth will be due in part to an aging population and rising rates of speech-related issues faced by older adults. Opportunities to work with children are expected to be on the rise, too, as more attention is given to speech disorders and communication skills within that population.

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