Is Speech Therapy the Right Career for You?

Is Speech Therapy the Right Career for You?

Speech-Language Pathologists (also called Speech Therapists or SLPs) help patients improve their quality of life by diagnosing, preventing and treating speech, language, swallowing and communication disorders. From helping patients conquer stuttering to recovering from brain injury, they work with a broad range of conditions. SLPs play an essential role in rehabilitation care teams.

As an SLP you can practice in a variety of settings. Our clinicians at Cornerstone Rehab work in the skilled nursing setting alongside older adults that may suffer from a range of conditions such as chronic diseases or from the effects of neurological events that caused trauma to the brain, such as stroke, seizure, cancer or physical trauma. Recovery can be a slow process, which allows clinicians to form quality relationships with patients. Being able to help someone speak and gain more confidence in their communication can be a satisfying experience.

As a speech therapist, you have the opportunity to be an essential part of the rehabilitation team. Even though you may provide one-on-one therapy to the patient, the treatment plan may require a collaborative team effort. In many cases, speech-language pathologists will work with physical therapists, occupational therapists and assistants. In addition, becoming a Speech Language Pathologist also means that you’ll work with many other professionals including social workers, physicians, dieticians and psychologists. With an integrated treatment plan and teamwork, a patient is able to have a better recovery.

As for what you can expect on a day-to-day basis, the typical duties of a speech pathologist may include:

  • Evaluating levels of speech, language, and swallowing difficulty as well as the treatment options

  • Creating individualized treatment plans that address patient-specific needs

  • Providing therapy to patients with speech disorders, including problems with articulation, fluency, and voice disorders

  • Providing therapy to patients with language disorders, including expressive/receptive language, social/pragmatic language, and spoken/written language. 

  • Providing therapy to patients with cognitive disorders, including dementia

  • Monitoring and evaluating progress

  • Developing and strengthening muscles used to swallow

  • Recommending modified diets to facilitate safe and effective oral intake for patients experiencing difficulty swallowing

  • Counseling individuals and families to cope with their disorders

  • Training, communicating with, and educating family members and caregivers of those with communication or swallowing disorders

How Do You Become a Speech-Language Pathologist?

In order to pursue a career in speech therapy, you should consider a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Even though there is no specific bachelor’s degree required, most students earn their degree in communication sciences and disorders. This major will provide you with the prerequisite courses necessary to gain admission to a graduate-level speech pathology program. During the course of your bachelor’s degree, you will learn about language development and function while also fulfilling initial clinical experience requirements. Class topics can include linguistics, phonetics, psychology, audiology, and general science which help you gain a better understanding of the field.

A bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders is a four-year degree that is available at many traditional universities as well as approved online programs.

The next and critical step in becoming a SLP is earning your masters in speech pathology.

You should choose a master’s degree that is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). There are currently 272 CAA accredited programs in the U.S.

These programs will help prepare you with the necessary skills and educational requirements to succeed. During your master’s program, you will be introduced to concepts such as:

  • Voice articulation

  • Literacy

  • Phonology

  • Neurological substrates

Supervised clinical practicums—totaling 400 hours—will also be a part of your SLP continuing education. These practicums will teach you how to diagnose and treat patients who come from a variety of different socioeconomic and linguistic backgrounds. Additionally, your supervised clinical experience will be split in clinical observation and direct patient care. You will spend at least 25 hours in clinical observation and 375 hours in direct client/patient contact. This is the minimum required to graduate.

Another step a graduate student takes before becoming a Speech Pathologist is to complete a Clinical Fellowship (CF) experience.  The CF experience typically lasts 36 weeks and will provide you with the opportunity to work full-time in your chosen career field with a designated SLP Mentor.

After graduating with your masters in speech pathology, the next step is to obtain a license to practice speech pathology by applying to the licensing board in your corresponding state. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is responsible for credentialing Speech Pathologists through academic programs, clinical practices, and continuing education. To earn your speech language pathology certification, there are four steps required to meet your licensure requirements in most states. Those steps to becoming a Speech Pathologist include:

  1. Supervised Clinical Experience: 400 hours—25 hours of clinical observation and 375 hours of client/patient contact.

  2. Clinical Fellowship (CF): 36 weeks (1260 hours) of clinical practice—completed by working at least 5 hours per week.

  3. Pass Praxis Exam: A passing score on the Praxis Exam is a requirement for obtaining ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology, a state license, and a state teaching certificate.

  4. Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC): You can become “certified” by obtaining the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC). While a CCC is not always required for state licensure, it may be required for employment. The certification is denoted as CCC-SLP.

Each state has their own set of requirements for becoming an SLP and will require a specific license. It’s important to consult with your state’s licensure board to fully understand what will be required of you.

After graduating with your master’s degree, there are still many opportunities for continuing your education for speech pathology. Cornerstone Rehab offers you the opportunity for continuing your education as part of our benefits package

In fact, to renew a license, some states may require you to take a minimum number of continuing education units (CEUs). Consult your state licensure board requirements. These continuing education credits can be satisfied in a multitude of ways, including completing classes, attending seminars, or participating in workshops.

Even if CEUs are not required by your state, taking advantage of these educational opportunities is a great way for Speech Pathologists to stay current on industry standards, best practice recommendations, and treatment interventions guided by evidence-based research.  They are also invaluable tools for building your resume and improving your speech pathology job outlook.

After you complete all necessary requirements, it is time to find the job of your dreams. The opportunities are endless—it’s one of the allied health careers that is in high demand with excellent growth. Learn more about job openings at Cornerstone Rehab to join our team of skilled clinicians.

Here are just a few of the trends driving phenomenal growth in the field of speech therapy.

  1. People are living longer. The number of people aged 65 and older is expected to grow 20% by 2050. With the aging of Americans comes an increase in medical conditions associated with speech, swallowing, and language conditions such as stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

  2. A growth in bilingualism and multilingualism. The number of people who don’t speak English in their homes has been steadily growing in the last few years. People in the U.S. today are twice as likely to speak a language other than English at home than they were in the 1980s. SLPs help multilinguals achieve language proficiency, pronunciation, mastering language patterns and even word acquisition.

  3. Improved hearing technology.The last few years has brought transformative innovations in hearing technology offering the hearing impaired the opportunity to hear and communicate better than ever before. The increased popularity of cochlear implants, for example, help profoundly deaf people to hear and speak again.

Learn how you can join the skilled team of clinicians at Cornerstone Rehab.