Speech Therapy Masters Degree Program Information

Get information on master's degree programs in speech therapy. Learn about the curriculum, licensing and certification requirements, and examine career opportunities in the field.

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Essential Information

Speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists, work with people who have speech and language disorders. A speech therapist most often works in a clinical setting, but may also work in schools to help students with speech problems. The clients of a speech therapist would include stroke victims, people who stutter, people who cannot make appropriate speech sounds, people who have difficulty with languages and persons with physical barriers to normal speech.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) designates a master's degree as a qualification for entry-level certification as a speech-language pathologist, the more formal name for a speech therapist. All states require licenses for speech therapists; requirements vary by state, but they generally include passing a competency exam and may call for ASHA certification.

A Master of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders meets the requirements for a speech therapist position. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a relevant area. The master's program teaches students to diagnose, plan and execute a program of therapeutic management for a variety of medical conditions. Courses cover various types of communications disorders, as well as alternate methods of communications. Most programs take two years to complete and include clinical practicums in addition to classroom work.

Educational Prerequisites

A bachelor's degree in speech pathology or audiology is required for entry into a speech therapy master's degree program. Many colleges require a specified grade point average and at least 30 credits of prerequisite courses in communicative sciences. These prerequisites include anatomy and physiology, audiology, acoustic phonetics and phonetics. To prepare for ASHA certification, students should make sure to have 12 credits in social science, biological science, physical science and mathematics.

Program Coursework

Students take speech disorder courses, audiology courses and clinical courses. Typical coursework might include organic chemistry, genetics, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Other course topics include the following:

  • Language disorders in children
  • Voice disorders
  • Fluency disorders
  • Adult language disorders
  • Motor speech disorders
  • Childhood development
  • Human growth and development
  • Craniofacial anomalies
  • Dysphagia
  • Modalities for communication

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of speech pathologists should grow about 23% during the reporting decade of 2010-2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). This job growth is faster than average, compared to other occupations. Speech therapists should see an improvement in job opportunities as the aging population increases and the awareness of speech problems in young children improves. The average annual salary for a speech therapist in May 2012 was $72,730, as reported by the BLS.

Continuing Education

Speech therapists need a state license to practice; graduates should consult individual state licensing boards for information on requirements. Typically, candidates for licensure must pass the national Praxis speech-language pathology exam. Some states also require ASHA certification, which is known as the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). Many states have continuing education requirements for license renewal.

Some speech therapists opt for a doctoral degree in speech therapy to increase their knowledge and skills. Speech therapists interested in research might consider a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Speech-Language Pathology. A Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP.D.) can also be earned at 4-year universities.

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