Speech Pathology Degree
A speech pathology degree will prepare a professional to diagnose and treat a variety of issues related to the throat and voice. Patients might encounter their problems after a medical accident such as a head injury or a stroke. Or a younger patient might simply have difficulty learning to speak or vocalizing their thoughts. A speech pathologist may also be known as a speech therapist.
Among the issues a speech pathologist might treat are:
- Swallowing problems
- Vocal modification (such as lessening an accent)
- Voice difficulties
Speech pathologists need an abundance of patience. They may work long hours with the same patients over a period of weeks or months. An ability to analyze, listen, and understand languages well is particularly helpful. Excellent hearing is not necessary but can make a speech pathologist’s job considerably easier. Familiarity with computers and technology allows speech pathologists to learn to use recent advances in medical tools more quickly.
Nearly all speech pathology job openings require a master’s degree or doctorate. Prospective speech pathologists should look for a program accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Council on Academic Accreditation. Some states require that speech pathologists graduate from an accredited program in order to apply for a license. Also only speech pathologists who graduate from an accredited program can apply for ASHA certification. About 240 programs were accredited and could offer masters and doctorate programs in 2009.
Speech pathology degree programs typically cover coursework in:
Special emphasis is usually placed upon how the courses relate to language, speech, and swallowing. Graduate-level programs often move students into a clinical setting to practice. A licensed speech pathologist or professor will oversee their work.
After graduation, a license is required for a speech pathologist to practice. As of 2009, 47 states had laws to govern speech pathologists. For speech pathologists who want to be able to work in schools, additional state requirements may apply. Only a licensed speech pathologist will be able to receive reimbursement from health insurance companies, Medicaid, or Medicare.
License requirements varied by state, but common requirements were:
- Graduation from an accredited college or university
- Passing the Educational Testing Service’s Praxis Series speech-language pathology examination
- 200 to 400 hours of experience in a supervised clinical facility
- 9 months of experience in a clinical facility after graduation
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded an average salary of $62,930 in May of 2009 for all speech pathologists. Among speech pathologists, those who worked in nursing homes had the highest average salary at $79,120. Health insurance, paid vacation time, and retirement benefits were common. About 40% of speech pathologists were union members. They typically earned slightly more than non-union speech pathologists.
Speech pathologists held about 119,300 jobs in 2008. Roughly 48% were employed in educational settings, with the remainder mostly working in medical facilities such as hospitals or nursing homes. About 20% of speech pathologists were on a contract or part-time basis. Contract speech pathologists traveled frequently.