What Can I Do With a Speech Pathology Degree?

Earning a speech-language pathology degree prepares you for a career that involves treating clients with speech impediments. Read on to learn about your degree and career options. Schools offering Bilingual and Multicultural Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) assesses and treats patients who cannot communicate verbally or swallow properly due to any of a number of reasons, including brain injuries or stroke, deafness, cleft palate, or developmental and emotional problems. Speech-language pathology assistants (SLPA) are professionals who work under the direction and supervision of a speech-language pathologist and carry out administrative and clinical tasks that are assigned to them. SLPAs cannot directly treat patients.

Important Facts About These Occupations

Speech-Language Pathologist Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Median Salary $74,900 (2014) $38,665 (2015)
On-the-Job Training No Yes
Similar Occupations Occupational therapist, audiologist Special education teacher, administrative assistant
Key Skills Listening, communication, critical-thinking skills Knowledge of autism and more than one language

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com

Career Options After Earning an Undergraduate Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

Earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology can prepare you for a career as a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA), depending on the state in which you live or the agency you work for. Hiring requirements vary. As an SLPA, you will work under the supervision of a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP), performing non-technical duties such as record keeping and equipment maintenance. You may implement standardized treatment procedures and assist in general assessments. You also may have the chance to work in the public school system.

Program Info

In an undergraduate speech-language pathology program, your courses could include audiology, phonetics, communication disorders and intercultural communication. You will also need to complete practicums or fieldwork experiences in which you work with individuals who have communication disorders.

Licensure or Certification Info

Not every state allows speech-language pathology assistants to be utilized. If your state does allow you to practice, you may be required to become licensed or certified. You may be able to work in a public school as an SLPA if you obtain a license or an assistant teacher certificate.

Education requirements for receiving licensure or certification can be anywhere from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree in speech pathology with some graduate credits. Generally, though, an associate's or bachelor's degree and at least 100 hours of supervised work or clinical experience is needed. Even if your state does not allow the use of SLPAs, you may still be able to assist an SLP as a teacher assistant.

Career Options After Earning a Graduate Degree

Earning a master's or doctoral degree prepares you to practice as a speech-language pathologist. As an SLP, you can treat people not only with speaking disorders but also those with difficulty swallowing. You can help people who are unable to form words or simply want to rid themselves of an accent. You will work with a range of ages, from infants to the elderly.

You may work in hospitals, clinics, private practice or public schools. On your first visit with the patient, you will evaluate his or her condition and decide means of treatment. As you continue, you will monitor his or her progress, carefully documenting all procedures and results. You may work with the patient's family to educate them about the process and help them understand the nature of the disorder and how to deal with it.

Program Info

As a graduate student in a speech-language pathology program, you'll learn more about conducting research in the field. If you enroll in a doctoral program, you'll need to write a dissertation as part of your graduation requirements. In a master's degree program, you'll need to either submit a thesis or pass a comprehensive exam, and you may be required to complete field practicums.

Licensure Info

Most states require you to obtain licensure to work as an SLP. Requirements vary by state, but you generally need a master's degree or higher, a passing score on a national examination for speech-language pathology, verified clinical practicum hours and post-graduate experience in a clinic. To renew your license, you are usually required to complete some continuing education courses.

ASHA Certification

When applying for licensure as an SLP, some states offer special preference to those who hold the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. To obtain this certification, you must have passed an exam, completed a graduate program and gained clinical fellowship experience. As of 2011, ASHA did not offer certification to speech-language pathology assistants.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment of SLPs would rise 19% during the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). This faster-than-average growth, compared to all occupations, should result from increasing opportunities in teaching disabled children and working with an aging population. Medical discoveries used in the saving of premature children and trauma or stroke patients have also increased the need for speech-language pathologists. The BLS also reported that SLPs earned an average salary of $74,900 in May 2014.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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