Colleges with Speech Pathology Majors: How to Choose
Speech pathology is an area of communications expertise that covers the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of individuals with speech, hearing or other communication disorders. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available at colleges and universities across the country, many of which lead to graduate programs and certificates.
How to Select a Speech Pathology School
Depending on whether the goal is to become a speech-language pathology assistant or speech-language pathologist, relevant programs can be found at community colleges or 4-year colleges and universities.
Summary of Important Considerations
- Career goals
- Accelerated program options and accreditation
- Practical experience and research opportunities
Speech pathologists, often referred to as speech-language pathologists or speech therapists, work with individuals who have communication disorders, such as articulation troubles or voice loss. Speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) perform routine hearing screenings, document patient information and assist speech-language pathologists with patient examinations. An associate's degree is generally required for SLPAs, although some states require a bachelor's degree, and most states require SLPAs to be licensed. Professional practice as a speech-language pathologist typically requires earning a master's degree or higher and obtaining state licensure.
Associate's degree programs are offered at community colleges and technical schools as Associate of Applied Science degrees. Because many states require SLPAs to be licensed, students should select a school with an AAS program that includes the coursework required by the state in which they plan to work.
Bachelor's degree programs in speech-language pathology are designed to be pre-professional degrees, creating the educational foundation required for further studies in a speech pathology or audiology graduate degree program. In the speech pathology profession, a master's degree is required for employment in most non-assistant positions. In the audiology profession, some states require the completion of a Doctor of Audiology degree. Students should select programs that offer the appropriate prerequisites for their desired graduate studies.
Accelerated Program Options and Accreditation
At some schools, speech pathology degree programs are offered as combined or accelerated bachelor's and master's degree programs. A combined program may allow students to complete both degrees in five years, instead of six. Students may want to consider graduate degree programs accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) of the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA). Graduating from a CAA-accredited program is necessary to be eligible for ASHA's certification, the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology.
Practical Experience and Research Opportunities
Schools that incorporate hands-on experience in professional environments, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and nursing facilities, give students the opportunity to gain practical experience while earning credits. Research facilities that specialize in speech, language, voice, augmentative and alternative communication methods may be desirable. Students may want to consider universities that have such facilities available above those without opportunities for specialized studies.
Speech Pathology Program Overviews
Associate in Applied Science in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
An Associate in Applied Science in Speech-Language Pathology Assistant degree program includes practicums in addition to classroom coursework. Students take courses in topics such as the following:
- Communication disorders
- Anatomy and physiology of speech and hearing
- Language development
Bachelor's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology degree program includes clinical practicums, providing students with opportunities to practice speech-language pathology methods. Diagnostics and evaluation training help students learn to evaluate, diagnose and plan appropriate treatment or rehabilitation for individuals with communicative disorders. Courses that students could take include the following:
- Language development
- Communication disorders
- Articulation disorders
Master's Degree in Speech-Language Pathology
A Master of Arts or Master of Science degree is required for most careers in speech pathology. A master's degree in speech-language pathology program prepares students for employment by incorporating hands-on experience in professional settings. Programs include clinical practicums, and students may complete a thesis or take a comprehensive exam. Program graduates are eligible for additional certification of clinical competency made available by the ASHA. Students take classes in these topics, among others:
- Research methods
- Counseling for communication disorders
- Fluency disorders
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