Speech Therapist: Speech Therapy Career Education

Speech therapists, also referred to as speech-language pathologists, diagnose and treat various communication disorders, such as speech, fluency, language cognition and accent issues. Using individualized assessment and therapeutic methods, they work with adults and children with learning disabilities, trauma victims, stroke survivors and others who suffer from speech afflictions. Becoming a speech therapist generally entails earning a graduate degree and state licensure.

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Speech Therapy Career Education

Undergraduate Degree

While undergraduate degrees do not qualify individuals for entry into the profession, bachelor's degrees are generally required for admission into graduate degree programs. Bachelor's degrees do not have to be directly related to speech therapy; however, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests a broad undergraduate education in the arts and sciences (www.asha.org). Coursework in communication, linguistics, humanities, physical science and biology may be beneficial. Students may choose to consult with prospective graduate schools for specific prerequisites, which typically vary by institution.

Master's Degree

Speech therapists typically hold master's degrees in speech-language pathology. Some states require that speech therapists complete degree programs accredited by the ASHA's Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA). In March 2011, the ASHA reported that there were 241 CAA-accredited master's degree programs in speech-language pathology.

Master's degree programs in speech-language pathology prepare graduates for entry-level clinical and research positions. Core courses may include communication disorders, voice and fluency, diagnosis methods, motor speech disorders and research techniques. Along with classroom instruction, these programs incorporate supervised, hands-on training through clinical practicums.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in speech-language pathology, communication science or a related field may be required for certain positions, such as research, administration or university-level teaching positions. Doctoral programs may have a clinical or research emphasis. For example, programs that result in a Doctor of Clinical Science (CScD) or Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD) are typically more clinically oriented, while programs that result in a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) are typically more research oriented. Depending on the type of program, doctoral students may complete dissertation or thesis projects, focus on specializations of speech therapy and take qualifying exams.

Licensure

Most states require speech therapists to hold licensure. While licensing requirements vary by state, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that they usually include completion of a CAA-accredited master's degree program, as well as 300-375 hours of clinical training and nine months of professional clinical practice (www.bls.gov). Candidates must also pass the Praxis examination on speech-language pathology administered by the Educational Testing Service. License-holders are typically required to maintain licensure by earning continuing education credits.

Certification

The ASHA offers a voluntary certification program that results in the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). While this certification is voluntary, its requirements often meet or exceed state licensing requirements according to the BLS. To obtain the CCC-SLP credential, speech therapists must complete a CAA-accredited degree program, train full-time for 36 weeks in a clinical fellowship and pass the Praxis speech-language pathology exam.

Salary and Employment Info

Speech therapists could see employment opportunities increase by 23% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. This faster-than-average job growth was attributed to the increasing number of speech and hearing conditions among older adults. As of May 2012, the middle half of speech therapists earned salaries ranging from $55,170 to $87,630. Their median annual salary was $69,870.

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