The ability to communicate with a complex language is a distinguishing feature of the human race. Since language is learned at an early age, most people take this ability for granted in their everyday lives. However, many people need help learning how to speak clearly due to congenital problems or physical injury. Speech therapists — also known as speech pathologists — help patients overcome these physical problems by helping them learn how to make sounds properly.
By assisting someone in learning how to speak clearly, a speech pathologist can change a person’s life for the better. Most employers require a master’s degree in speech-language pathology to get started.
Many colleges and universities offer graduate programs that are accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. While not always necessary, accreditation is useful or required when obtaining a license to practice.
In some states, certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association meets most or all of the requirements for getting a license. To qualify for certification, a candidate must have a master’s degree from an accredited school as well as complete 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, a 36-week postgraduate fellowship and pass the Praxis Series exam.
Speech therapists, also called speech pathologists, help people with speech disorders learn how to speak clearly. Many disorders stem from problems related to speech, language, swallowing and cognitive communication. Speech pathologists assess, diagnose, treat and attempt to prevent these problems, enabling their patients to communicate more clearly.
Some speech difficulties are congenital, but others are a result of stroke, brain injury, learning disabilities or physical issues such as cleft palates. Speech therapists develop treatments tailored to an individual’s needs, teaching patients how to make sounds, use their voices and strengthen muscles to improve swallowing. In some cases, a speech pathologist may suggest automated devices or sign language lessons to help a patient communicate more clearly. Speech therapists keep records of their patients’ progress from the first evaluation until the patient is discharged. Speech pathologists often work with a patient’s family to help determine behaviors that may prevent a patient from learning to communicate and speak properly. Family members are also taught techniques that can help enhance a patient’s ability to communicate.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for speech therapists is expected to advance at an average rate up to the year 2016. As the baby boomers begin to age, speech impairments caused by neurological disorders and other causes are expected to occur. The increased survival rate of premature infants as well as trauma or stroke victims also ensure a continued demand for speech pathologists.
The average annual salary of a speech and language pathologist is listed in Salary.com and ranges between $55,952 and $68,666.