If you are looking for a highly in-demand job that will offer you a way to make a difference in people's lives, consider a speech therapy career.
What Is Speech Pathology?
Despite using the word "speech" in the title, speech pathology does not only focus on the mechanics of how we communicate. It is the study of speech, language, swallowing and neuro-processing disorders. A speech-language pathologist or speech therapist helps someone struggling with one of these disorders overcome or compensate for his or her condition.
What Do Speech Pathologists Do?
Speech pathologists may work with anyone with a communication or swallowing problem — from young to old. Patients typically struggle with forming words, expressing themselves, taking turns in conversation, or even eating. Examples may include helping patients who are:
Speaking in a way that is difficult to understand
Getting frustrated by an inability to express themselves
Having issues with the pitch or tone of their voice
Speech pathologists usually evaluate these patients for any limiting mechanical or cognitive problems. They then use a variety of treatment methods to help their patients overcome their speech, language or swallowing difficulties. Keeping detailed notes and charting all progress, speech pathologists will make adjustments to their methods with every meeting and discuss integrated treatment plans with other specialists.
Typical Work Environment and Occupational Challenges
Most speech pathologists either work in educational settings to help children overcome speech or language difficulties or in medical settings with physicians to help patients after a stroke, surgery or injury. Both settings present unique occupational challenges.
In school settings, speech pathologists are limited by the time they have to spend with each patient. Often, one speech pathologist may serve multiple schools and children with a wide range of speech and language disorders. The speech pathologist may be required to spend hours outside of therapy discussing a patient's progress in individualized education program (IEP) meetings or coordinating care with teachers, parents and administration.
Speech pathology jobs in a medical setting are often limited not by a patient's needs, but insurance requirements. If patients are left debilitated by a stroke, surgery or injury, speech pathologists must use their ingenuity to help their patients receive the care they need in the time they have.
What Education Is Typically Needed to Be a Speech Pathologist?
Becoming a speech therapist is a rather involved process. A master's degree in speech-language pathology from an accredited university is required. This normally includes a nine-month (1,280-hour) clinical fellowship under the supervision of a certified speech pathologist. You then must take the Praxis exam and apply for your Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC-SLP), the internationally recognized certification given by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
A speech therapy career offers an opportunity to do more than just earn a living. You have a chance to truly help people live fuller, richer lives. To find available speech pathology jobs in your area, visit our Careers page and take the first step to becoming a speech therapist.
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