Speech Pathologist Career Guide

Overview

Speech pathologists, also known as speech language pathologists, provide rehabilitative services for clients who have communication and/or swallowing disorders. As a speech pathologist, you main goal will be to work with clients who have speech problems (inability to speak, speaking difficulties and/or rhythm/fluency issues (stuttering). You will more than likely provide services to clients who have communication, speech, reading and voice disorders or those who cannot speak or cannot speak without great difficulty.

If you are interested in becoming a speech pathologist, you will need to complete certain educational, certification and/or licensure requirements.

Educational Requirements

If you are interested in entering the field of speech pathology, you will need to acquire a bachelor’s and master’s degree from an accredited educational institution. Although you do not have to have a bachelor’s degree in a specific area before entering a graduate program, you will need to have taken certain pre-requisite courses before enrolling in the following courses: alternative communication techniques, age-related speech disorders and swallowing disorders.

You will also be required to complete a supervised, clinical internship at an approved institution or agency.  There are approximately 253 graduate programs that offer speech pathology.

Licensure & Certification

If you want to become a speech pathologist, you will also need to be licensed. In fact, most states require that you be licensed before you start practicing as a speech pathologist. In order to be licensed you must have a master’s degree along with supervised clinical experience.

Moreover, you may also need to be certified in clinical competence in speech-language pathology. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers the written certification exam. Most employers prefer that their speech pathologists are licensed and/or certified, but it is not a requirement to be a speech pathologist.

Job Duties

As a speech pathologist, you may work at a private practice, school, hospital, clinic, rehabilitation center, skilled nursing facility, health departments, research laboratory and/or an adult daycare.

As a speech pathologist, you will perform the following duties:

  • Evaluating your clients’ communication abilities and speech difficulties
  • Assessing your clients’ communication problems by having them perform basic reading and speech tasks and/or tests
  • Developing a treatment plan that improves your clients’ speech and language abilities
  • Creating and implementing client treatment plans
  • Teaching your clients how to make sounds and strengthen their voices
  • Teaching your clients alternative ways to communicate (sign language)
  • Working with your clients to help them improve their ability to read and write
  • Working with your clients to help them strengthen their swallowing muscles
  • Counseling your clients and their families on how to effectively manage communication and speech disorders
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date client medical records
  • Recording your assessments, observations and treatments in your clients’ medical files.

Salary Prospects

As a speech pathologist, you can expect to make approximately $67,000 per year (bls.gov). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), if you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to make approximately $43,000 per year, while if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to make approximately $104,000 or more per year. You will more than likely work full-time and may spend a considerable amount of time traveling between facilities.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for speech pathologists is favorable. In fact, the field of speech pathology is expected to grow 23% by 2020 (bls.gov). This increase will be spurred by the aging baby boomers. As people age, there will be an increased risk of strokes, speech impairments and hearing loss. In addition, as technology increases, there will be a need for speech pathologists to assess and treat individuals with communication and speech problems. Furthermore, there will be a continued need for speech pathologists to treat children with hearing and speech problems.

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