Language Therapist Careers: Job Description, Education and Salary

Overview

A language therapist, also known as a speech and language therapist, diagnoses and treats speech, language and communication problems. Your main goal, as a language therapist, will be to help people communicate better. You will primarily work with clients who have problems swallowing, eating and/or speaking.  In other words, your clients may find it difficult to speak, be unable to speak or have problems with fluency and rhythm (stuttering).

Moreover, you clients may not be able to understand language and/or have voice-related disorders (like an abnormally high pitch voice). You may decide to work with a specific age group like children, teens or the elderly or you may decide to keep your practice open to all ages. Furthermore, you may decide to focus specifically on stroke-related communication and/or swallowing problems.

Educational Requirements

In order to practice as a language specialist, you will need a master’s degree. Although a bachelor’s degree in a specific area is not necessary, you will need to take certain undergraduate courses before entering a language therapy graduate program. Required undergraduate courses vary from school to school so it is important to contact your chosen graduate schools (for pre-requisite course requirements) before submitting applications. Once in graduate school, you will need to enroll in the following courses: alternative communication methods, age-specific speech disorders and/or swallowing disorders. You will also be required to complete a supervised clinical internship.

Licensure & Certification

You will need to be licensed in order to practice as a language therapist. Once you have obtained a master’s degree and completed a supervised clinical internship, you will be eligible for licensure. It is important to note that some states require that you graduate from an accredited graduate program to become a licensed language therapist. Contact your state’s medical or health licensure board for more licensure information. Once you have successfully passed the licensure exam, you will receive a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology. This certificate is provided by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Job Duties

You primary duties will be to work with clients to help them manage their speech and language problems. If the client is in school, you will also work closely with his/her teacher, counselor, social work, guidance counselor, etc. and other medical professionals (physicians nurses and/or psychologists). You may work in a hospital, community health center, clinic, special education school, traditional school, assessment unit, day center, skilled nursing facility and/or a client’s home.

When diagnosing clients, you will perform the following duties:

  • Evaluating the client’s speech and language difficulties
  • Assessing the client’s communication problems by asking him/her to complete basic reading and speech-related tasks and/or tests
  • Clearly explaining treatment options to the client and his/her family
  • Creating and executing an individualized client treatment plan

When treating clients, you will perform the following tasks:

  • Teaching clients how to create sounds and enhance their voices
  • Teaching clients (with little to no speech abilities) alternative communication methods like sign language
  • Working with clients to improve their ability to properly read and write
  • Working with clients to develop and reinforce the muscles used to swallow, speak and eat
  • Counseling clients and their family on the most effective ways to manage communication disorders

Other duties that you may perform when assisting clients may include:

  • Maintain accurate client medical records
  • Documenting client diagnoses
  • Tracking treatment progress (noting any changes in the client’s condition and/or treatment plan)

Salary Prospects

You may work directly with physicians, social workers, psychologists, other therapists, teachers, special educators, other school personnel and/or parents to develop and execute treatment plans, provide counseling (group and/or individual) and/or reinforce classroom activities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), there were approximately 123,000 language therapy jobs in 2010. Approximately 50% of language therapists work in schools, 40% work in healthcare/medical facilities and 10% work in the patients’ home. You will more than likely work full-time and if you are a contract-based language therapist you will spend a lot of time traveling between facilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), you can expect to make approximately $67,000 per year, on average, as a language therapist. If you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to make approximately $43,000, but if you fall in the upper 10% you can expect to make approximately $105,000 per year (bls.gov).

Career Outlook

The career outlook for language therapy jobs is favorable. Language therapy jobs are expected to increase 20% by 2020 (bls.gov). This increase will stem from the aging baby-boomers. In other words, as the baby boomers age, they will require more and more health services for speech and language disabilities caused by strokes and/or hearing loss disorders. The addition of hearing and speech-related disorders will spur the need for more speech and language therapists. Furthermore, the increasing understanding of speech and language disorders like stuttering, especially in young children, will also lead to a need for more speech and language therapists in the future.

References and Further Reading

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