What to Know About Being a Speech Therapist

Informally known as a speech therapist these are the people that help people with speech impairments.  Formally, they are called speech-language pathologist.  They help with impairments ranging from stuttering, trouble clearly speaking, and sometimes neurogenic diseases.  Being a speech therapist can turn out to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying jobs for anyone.  It has become a growing career field with future projections of continuous growth.  As of right now, there are over 100,000 jobs available and counting.  If you want to be a speech therapist here are some things you want to know.

Like any job, there’s a personality that fits for that job.  To be a speech therapist you must be organized in some way.  There’s going to be paperwork about patients to keep track of and their progress.  Not only that, but you must be adaptable and flexible to both their schedule and their patients.  The patients will range from ages and walks of life and they all must be treated differently.  With that, you need to be open-minded, compassionate, and understanding.  This will help your patients feel more comfortable and open with you.

To be a speech therapist you also need an education.  Almost all speech therapists have a master’s degree in speech therapy where they’ll study communication, development, and disorders within humans.  A license and certificate are also required after acquiring the speech therapy degree.  Every state in the U.S. requires practicing speech therapists to have a license.  The ASHA, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association requires a certificate of competency for therapists.

What Is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists (SLP), also called speech therapists, are highly-educated professionals who have a minimum of a master’s degree in their field.  As in any health-care related profession, SLPs are required to study anatomy and physiology, but they also research neuroanatomy, genetics, human and language development, linguistics, psychology, acoustics and more, which is why they are qualified to evaluate, diagnose and handle a broad range of delays and disorders.

SLP helps assess, diagnose, treat and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, voice, swallowing issues, speech and language fluency. Speech Pathologists work with people who are unable to produce speech sounds or cannot deliver them clearly; those with speech rhythm and fluency difficulties, such as stuttering; people with voice disorders, such as inappropriate pitch or harsh voice; those with problems understanding and producing language; and those with cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory and problem solving disorders.

Educational Requirements to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders or a related major with an emphasis in arts and science are generally accepted to be admitted into a speech-language pathology master’s program. Coursework in linguistics, phonetics, psychology, math, and general science are common classes one would need. The student should communicate with the school to secure that the required prerequisites are completed to be admitted into the master’s degree program.

Master’s/Doctoral Degree

A master’s degree that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) is required for students pursuing a career within the speech pathology field. There are currently 265 CAA accredited programs in speech-language pathology in the US. For those students looking to handle research, private practice or as a professor, they are required to achieve a doctoral degree.

Supervised Clinical Experience

As part of the requirements, the student will also have to fulfill 400 hours of supervised clinical experience. The supervised clinical experience will consist of 25 hours of clinical observation and the other 375 hours is to direct client/patient contact. At least 325 hours are required to finish at the graduate level.

How Much Money Does a Speech Therapist Make

Many people are quick to ask how much money does a speech therapist make.  A therapist can have a salary that ranges from $43,000 to $100,000 with an average of about $60,000 to $72,000.  The salary may start out low and slowly increase with the amount of experience you gain.  It also is influenced based on where you work and the demand for a speech therapist.

Most speech therapists work in elementary and secondary schools, but not all of them.  Others work in the medical field in public or private institutions.  The work there is usually more steady whereas working privately can sometimes be variable based on that demand.  Usually you will work either one on one with the patient.  Other times it may be in a small group or an actual class setting with the patient to help them.

During work, speech therapists need to be able to identify the problems either in speech, language, communication, feeding, and swallowing.  To be a speech therapist it is more than just talking.  Some of your patients may also need help with feeding and swallowing, sometimes they need in their reading and writing too.

The tasks speech therapists have to do can range a great deal.  Some therapists work with the hard of hearing or deaf so they are able to better communicate.  Others work with patients that have mental disorders like autism.  These therapists provide what would be considered non-traditional means of helping their patients.  Therapists find an alternative or augmented way to communicate with their patients and pass that information on to the patients parents and/or caregivers.

Since patients abilities and impairments range therapists have learned strategies for better success for their patients.

One of the strategies is language activities.  The therapist will play games and read with their patient dependent on their age.  This is normally for younger patients like children, but this is a method that helps the patient speak more in a positive way.  It will usually be repeated during each session with a therapist and the therapist will also help with proper vocabulary and grammar also.

The second strategy some therapists have adopted is articulation for the patient.  The therapist will say words and have the patient mimic their words.  They also will teach them how to move their tongue to better say the word or phrase and this will be repeated multiple times with the patient.

Since not all therapists not only help with communication they help people with any issues surrounding the mouth including swallowing and feeding.  The therapist will have a series of exercises for the patient to perform that will help strengthen the muscles around the mouth.

There are many career paths that speech therapists can follow and most feel that it’s satisfying and rewarding.  Being a speech therapist means helping people communicate better with people and make them feel more confident in their abilities regardless of their speech impairment or disorder.

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