What does it take to become a speech language pathologist?
Speaking allows us to communicate that we’re in pain, socialise, and make connections with others and share our thoughts and ideas. But when health conditions like stroke or dementia, or those who are born with or develop stuttering or swallowing problems, rob us of the ability to speak and live a fulfilling life, speech language pathologists are the ones we turn to for respite.
US President-elect Joe Biden has been public about his struggles with stuttering; the film The King’s Speech is based on a true story of King George VI’s stammer. Unlike the former, Biden was quoted saying that he had never had professional therapy to help with his speech impediment, but it goes to show that many people do require the help of speech-language pathologists.
Speech-language pathologists are sometimes referred to as speech therapists. They help prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in both children and adults.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 25% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. They add that as the large baby-boom population grows older, there will be more instances of health conditions that can cause speech or language impairments.
Career-wise, speech-language pathologists can find employment in schools, research, and healthcare facilities.
Top speech language pathology schools in the US
Speech language pathologists typically need a master’s and licensure in the field, depending on the country of employment’s requirements.
The US News and World Report notes the following institutions are among the top speech-language pathology schools for their master’s programmes: Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Purdue University-West Lafayette, University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Arizona, University of Iowa, University of Kansas and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
The University of Arizona’s Master of Science in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences with an emphasis in Speech-Language Pathology programme, for instance, prepares graduates to meet the academic and clinical requirements for certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Speech-Language Pathology. Students will also undergo coursework that covers communication disorders across the lifespan, and includes clinical education grounded in research and principles of evidence-based practice.
Vanderbilt’s Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology provides students with academic and clinical education that leads to the Certificate of Clinical Competence in speech-language pathology (CCC-SLP) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
The programme takes approximately 20 to 24 months to complete, but the length of the programme depends upon the student’s academic background. There are also a variety of clinical training venues for students. The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists was US$79,120 in May 2019, said the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is listed as among the top 10 best healthcare jobs by the US News and World Report. With strong potential for job growth and the ability to transform people’s lives, it goes to show that a career in the field looks promising.