Speech therapy is intensive work, as it is customized to each patient so that he or she can function and communicate effectively. In order to work as a speech therapist, a person must obtain a master's degree. Related doctoral degree programs also exist for aspiring researchers and professors.
Graduate degree programs focus on areas such as swallowing and voice disorders, audiology and linguistics. They may require clinical rotations, teaching assistantships or a dissertation. Doctoral candidates must have a faculty sponsor. Licensure is necessary to work in the field, and continuing education is required for licensure renewal.
Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology
Students enrolled in a master's degree program in speech-language pathology are taught to diagnose and treat communication impairments and swallowing disorders in adults and children. By completing both coursework and clinical practice, students gain a background in human anatomy and physiology, speech development and production, methods of assessment, treatment of speech disorders and trends in the profession.
This science-intensive area of study requires the student to have patience, attention to detail, empathy and compassion. As a health care professional, a speech therapist must deal with emotionally demanding situations.
A bachelor's degree is required prior to enrollment in a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology program. For some schools, a certain minimum GPA is necessary in order to be considered for acceptance. Official transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, letters of reference and an essay may be requested.
This program focuses on specific areas of communication disorders and disabilities. Clinical practice and hands-on experiences play a major role in the curriculum. Areas of study can include:
- Language disorders
- Voice disorders
- Clinical practice and procedures
- Audiology practice
- Swallowing disorders
Doctor of Philosophy in Speech Pathology
A Ph.D. in Speech Pathology prepares graduates for careers as speech therapy researchers and college professors. Doctoral students work with a mentor to decide on advanced coursework in language and speech science.
Admission into the Ph.D. program requires a student to earn a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA. Students must also submit GRE scores. Letters of recommendation and an essay or personal statement may also be required. Doctoral hopefuls also need to obtain a sponsor who is a faculty member; this sponsor will be the student's advisor.
Doctoral degree program coursework is related to specific research areas, depending on the student's dissertation topic. The curriculum focuses on communication problems and may include some of the topics seen below.
- Special education
- Individual research in speech-language pathology
- Audiology and sensory processes
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The average annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $76,900 as of May 2015, per BLS statistics. Professionals who have earned a doctoral degree in this field may bring in a higher salary and have a greater chance of obtaining employment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 131,450 speech-language pathologists (also known as speech therapists) employed in the U.S. in 2015. The BLS further notes that the outlook for this career is excellent due to the increasing population of geriatrics and increased awareness of speech disorders earlier in life. Employment in the profession is projected to increase 21% between 2014 and 2024.
Continuing Education Information
Speech-language pathologists are eligible to apply for the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by ASHA. Application requires paying dues, finishing a minimum number of hours of clinical practice, completing a clinical fellowship and submitting Praxis examination scores and official graduate transcripts.
Licensure is required by nearly all states, and continuing education is required by many for renewal. Students seeking licensure must have taken the Praxis examination and have a minimum number of hours logged with patients.
Aspiring speech therapists can seek master's and doctoral degrees in the field, with programs delving into the science of speech pathology, various speech disorders and the methods of therapy used to treat them. Licensure is required by most states before graduates begin practicing.