Speech Pathology

Speech pathologists typically require master's degrees and state licensure to treat individuals with a variety of speech-related disorders. Read on to learn more about certification and education for speech-language pathologists, as well as what to expect in terms of earnings and job growth.

Is Speech Pathology Right for Me?

Career Overview

Speech pathologists, or speech therapists, diagnose and treat a variety of disorders related to language, swallowing, voice and cognition. Many neurological and speech-related disorders are treated by speech pathologists, including rhythm problems, fluency, stuttering and inappropriate pitch, to name a few. As a speech pathologist, you can also help individuals to enunciate more clearly and effectively. You may work with children, adolescents, adults and the elderly using special instruments to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem and assess the extent of impairments. Patience, compassion and good communication skills are key to building a successful career in this field.

Career Options

Careers in speech pathology largely depend on the level of education attained. With an undergraduate degree, you may work as a speech pathology assistant; however, a graduate degree will enable you to work in various healthcare settings, providing direct patient care alongside other physicians and therapists. For instance, you could work in a hospital, clinic, rehabilitation center or nursing care facility.

You may also work in a school or day care setting to develop programs and activities that help students' speech and cognitive development from an early age. Some speech pathologists work in universities and laboratories to advance the profession through research and development. State and local health departments, federal government agencies and private institutes also employ speech pathologists.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of speech-language pathologists was projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 19% nationwide from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for speech-language pathologists was $70,810, with the top-paid ten percent earning $109,800, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Speech Pathologist?

Educational Requirements

While a master's degree is usually required for most entry-level speech pathology jobs, completion of an associate's degree program in a relevant field of study may qualify you for a position as an assistant. A bachelor's degree in speech pathology can help you prepare for graduate school or for a related career in special education, disability law or hospital and school administration. A master's degree in speech pathology requires two years of study; an additional year of coursework may be required if you earned your bachelor's degree in another area.

Curriculum

A speech pathology curriculum generally includes topics in anatomy and physiology, audiology, phonetics and acoustics. You'll also study developmental psychology and learn about the causes and symptoms of speech impairments. Graduate programs typically include clinical practicums that allow for hands-on training in the evaluation and treatment of disorders. A doctoral degree program combines advanced coursework with clinical experience and independent research.

Certification and Licensing

Most states require you to be licensed or certified to work as a speech pathologist, which typically involves earning a master's degree and completing at least 300 hours of supervised clinical experience. You'll also have to participate in nine months of postgraduate clinical experience and pass a national examination. Some states require degrees from accredited programs; the Council on Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the accrediting authority in the United States. Specific requirements vary by state and may be different if you choose to work in a public school, so be sure to check your state's requirements.

Continuing Education

Continuing education may be required to renew and maintain state licensure on an ongoing basis. The ASHA offers a variety of state-approved continuing education options, including courses, web seminars, conventions and conferences. Speech pathology certification is available through the ASHA and results in a Certificate of Clinical Competence, a voluntary credential that requires a graduate degree from an accredited program and a minimum of 400 hours of supervised clinical experience (www.asha.org).

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