Studying Speech Therapy: Degrees at a Glance
Speech language pathologists (SLPs) address language and swallowing disorders associated with fluency, articulation, neuropathology or vocal quality. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment opportunities for speech language pathologists would increase by 23% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average for all occupations during this decade.
In most states, licensure and certification as a speech language pathologist requires possessing a master's degree. Generally, an accredited master's degree program prepares individuals for the national Speech Language Pathology Praxis and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) exams, which are required in order to earn a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). Undergraduate degree programs that include instruction in speech pathology, communication disorders or special education may prepare students for graduate study or entry-level positions in speech language pathology. Bachelor's degree program graduates can work as a special education teacher or speech language pathology assistant.
|Who is this degree for?|| - Individuals interested in continuing their studies after graduation to earn a master's degree in the field |
- Individuals interested in working as a speech language pathology assistant
| - Candidates seeking professional level, management or entrepreneurial opportunities in speech therapy |
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)|| - SLP assistant (salary unavailable)* |
-Special education teacher ($53,000 - SLP training optional)**
- Speech and language therapy administrative supervisor ($86,000 - with five years of experience)*
| - Speech and language pathologist ($70,000 - with CCC-SLP)*|
- Speech and language pathologist - nursing home ($77,000 - with CCC-SLP)*
- Speech and language therapy director ($95,000 - with seven years of experience)*
- Private practice speech therapist (salary unavailable)
|Time to Completion||4 years, full-time|| 1-2 years, full-time |
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Usually around 120 credits of coursework |
- Capstone or senior project
| - Approximately 30-40 credits of coursework |
- Clinical practicum or externship
|Prerequisites||High school diploma, GED or associate's degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Online Availability||Rare||Very rare|
Sources: *Salary.com (2012 median salary), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 median yearly wages).
Bachelor's Degrees in Speech Therapy
Bachelor's degree programs in speech language pathology, communication disorders or audiology are generally designed to provide a foundation for professional-level studies in graduate school. The curriculum of these programs covers topics like the biological and psychological aspects of verbal communication, swallowing processes, basic principles of assessment and treatment of identified disorders. Some programs may require completion of a supervised clinical or observational experience, or an internship.
Pros and Cons
- Programs prepare students to attend a speech language pathology graduate degree program
- Graduation from a bachelor's degree program may allow an individual to work in a support role as a speech-language pathology assistant under the supervision of ASHA-certified professionals
- Programs provide a foundation for careers in human development, health, education or communication
- A master's degree is generally needed to earn professional certification in speech-language pathology
- A master's degree program cannot usually be completed online; most program curriculums include required on-campus or clinical experiences
- Because certification requirements are established by each state, some programs may not prepare an individual to work in the field in another state
Courses and Requirements
These programs consist of general education classes, courses in the major and elective classes. Some also include internships, supervised clinics or observation experiences. Classes cover topics like:
- Clinical phonetics and phonology
- Speech sound development and disorders
- Language science and development
- Assessment and intervention of speech and language disorders
- Speech language pathology methods and application
- Neurological bases of communication disorders
- Introduction to clinical processes
Fully online programs are available, but are uncommon. Usually, online programs are designed for students seeking a second bachelor's degree and include a clinical experience requiring in-person attendance. Therefore, if you're contemplating an online program, ensure that you are able to complete in-person training requirements at facilities near your home.
Getting Ahead With This Degree
Participation in research projects or additional clinical experiences can demonstrate your dedication to the field. Some schools provide clinical or laboratory facilities, which students can use to engage in research or complete more than one supervised clinical practicum. These experiences may impress employers.
You might also consider joining the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA). Membership in this association can provide networking opportunities and allow you to demonstrate leadership skills by assuming a leadership role.
Master's Degree in Speech Therapy
Instruction in speech language pathology may be provided in a program dedicated to the field or as an area of emphasis within communication or audiology disorder degree programs. Regardless of area of study, however, master's degree programs in speech therapy typically include classwork, labs, externships and a clinical practicum.
Pros and Cons
- Degree qualifies you to work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, public schools and other health and education facilities
- Program acts as either a terminal professional degree or as preparation for a doctoral program
- Self-employment through private practice is an option for program graduates
- Some locations may offer more practicum opportunities than others
- Preparation for working in school settings may require additional licensing through a state's education department
- Salaries for speech language pathologists vary depending on geographic area and type of facility
Courses and Requirements
In these programs, students learn about evaluation procedures, result interpretation, treatment plan implementation and how to monitor progress. The curriculum addresses topics such as research methodologies and the medical bases of speech disorders. Classes focus on topics like:
- Early language development and disorders
- Speech sound disorders
- Voice disorders
- Fluency disorders in children and adults
- Craniofacial anomalies
- Medical/school practice in speech-language pathology
- Augmentative and alternative communication
Some programs may allow students to specialize in areas such as speech development or stuttering. Additionally, schools may operate centers for communication disorders that provide training and research opportunities to master's degree students.
Entirely online master's degree programs in speech therapy are rare. This is because required clinical experiences mandate in-person attendance. However, some programs may offer online classes.
Standing Out with This Degree
To stand out with your degree, consider conducting research and becoming published. For example, you may be able to work with a faculty member at your school or participate in the manuscript mentoring opportunity offered by the NSSLHA. Being published or even just being able to demonstrate participation in research may impress employers.