Understanding the 'why' and 'how' of speech development is the basis for a speech-language pathologist's career. Also called 'speech therapists', these specialists may work with clients with specific language disorders or physical disabilities. A master's degree in speech and language pathology is the degree most commonly required in order for a pathologist to obtain licensure in their state of choice.
Speech-language pathologists treat individuals who have problems with talking, swallowing and language development. They also work with people who wish to modify accents or have physical disabilities that affect their speech. Workplaces can include medical clinics, schools and hospitals. A master's degree is required to become a speech-language pathologist as well as extensive supervised training working with clients. Speech-language pathologists generally must be licensed by the state where they practice.
|Required Education||Master's degree in speech-language pathology|
|Other Requirements||Licensing required in most states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||21%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$73,410*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Speech-Language Pathologist Career Info
Speech-language pathologists examine, diagnose and treat patients in schools, homes or other private practice facilities. Their work involves assessing a patient's communication problems and developing a treatment plan. Some speech-language pathologists specialize in certain realms, such as working with adolescents or working only with swallowing issues. Others may teach hearing-disabled patients how to communicate with sign language. Speech therapists often work with the same patients on a long-term basis to achieve desired results. Other roles for qualified professionals include administrative positions and mentoring or teaching other speech therapists.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), speech-language pathologists, often called speech therapists, work in the education, healthcare and social services (www.bls.gov). The BLS projects that the job market for speech-language pathologists will grow by 21% between 2014 and 2024, which means that qualified speech therapists have good chances for finding employment.
Although most states require speech-language pathologists to be certified or licensed, exact regulations vary. Most positions require a master's degree, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA) Council on Academic Accreditation lists accredited graduate speech-language pathology programs for those interested in this field. Graduating from one such accredited program might not be required for all speech therapy positions, but some states require it. It is also mandatory to join ASLHA.
Speech-language pathology students take courses in anatomy, physiology, disorders, communication and acoustics. They also learn about the parts of the body involved in speech and swallowing. Some speech-language pathology programs offer internships or clinical experiences. Students in graduate-level programs might spend time diagnosing and treating patients under the supervision of licensed speech therapists.
Speech therapists can find work in medical centers or they can have their own private practice. They can choose to specialize themselves, such as only working with individuals with swallowing or speaking disorders. Licensing requirements for a speech therapist vary depending on the state, but a master's degree from an accredited program is a safe bet to get started.